China's Ambassador to Britain Fu Ying and Minister for the Olympics Tessa Jowell were at Heathrow to welcome a delegation who carried a lantern holding the flame, reports the BBC. On Sunday 80 athletes, entertainers and dignitaries will carry the torch by relay on a 31-mile long journey through the capital's streets. Activists critical of the Chinese government have vowed to hold protests. Speaking after she greeted the Chinese delegation, Jowell expressed the hope that the protests would be peaceful. "We have to recognize that Londoners can mark and celebrate the Olympic torch relay without any suggestion the government is condoning what is happening in China," Jowell said.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to use the arrival of the Olympic torch to send a very strong message to China that it is abusing its role as custodian of Olympic values
The Metropolitan Police has said that 2,000 officers would be mobilized to maintain order along the route of the relay.
A spokesman said Scotland Yard had heard from six organizations, including the Free Tibet movement, the Falun Gong spiritual group and the Burma campaign, that they were planning to send about 500 demonstrators.
Free Tibet spokesman Matt Whitticase said: "What worries me and many other protesters is the way in which China is draping itself in Olympic values and talking about a journey of harmony with this torch relay, whilst at the very same time, as has been reported this morning, the Chinese government is killing Tibetans in Tibet."
Tibetan exile groups claim at least eight people were killed when security forces fired on civilians in Sichuan province, western China, on Thursday, while the state Xinhua news agency says a government official was seriously injured by rioters.
Sir Steve Redgrave, Tim Henman, Dame Kelly Holmes and Kevin Pietersen will be among the 80 torch bearers as it is carried miles through 10 London boroughs on Sunday.
The torch was lit in Olympia, Greece, last week and will go through 20 countries before being carried into the Beijing Games opening ceremony on August 8.
The Metropolitan Police will also have Chinese interpreters on hand and any insulting banners will be confiscated, the BBC said.
Hundreds of Chinese students in the UK are planning counter-demonstrations in support of the Beijing Games.