THOUSANDS of people are expected to line the streets of Gwent to welcome the Olympic flame this week. WILL BAIN reports.

WITH just 66 days to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Olympic Torch prepares to enter Wales for the first time on Friday.

Lit by the suns rays in a ceremony at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, the gold torch is 800 millimetres high, comprising 8,000 cut out circles representing the 8,000 stories of those carrying the torch.

Monmouthshire will be the first place to greet the torch when it arrives in the Principality, before it spends the rest of the day travelling through Gwent.

And events are being laid on across the region to mark this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

As the torch heads out from Monmouth school on the first leg of its Welsh journey, at around 10.45am 155 school children from Trellech primary will perform On a rainbow, the official song of London 2012 mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.

People lining the route in Brynmawr are encouraged to get there for 12pm, with the best views available from King Street and Beaufort Street.

Big band music, karate and dance displays on a main stage will entertain the crowds from 1pm through to 4.30pm, while the Blaenau Gwent Olympic Village based at Blaen y Cwm School will run from 1-7pm.

As well as live dance, choral singing and free-running performances, there will be a range of activities including a climbing wall, an inflatable football pitch, arts and crafts while Dr Who fans will get the chance to catch a glimpse of the time-travellers famous Tardis.

In Torfaen, the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre will be marking the occasion with a fun packed 'Best of Blaenavon' event, from 12 - 4pm. The event will showcase local food and craft producers, local visitor attractions and sports clubs. There will also be live music, entertainment and food served in the Heritage Tea Rooms, Fresh!

The torch will begin its Newport leg from the castle at 3.45PM with free family entertainment outside the Riverfront Theatre and also on Commercial Street.

There is also the chance to visit the Following the Flame exhibition, which is on display at Newport Museum and Art Gallery until June 14. The exhibit showcases Welsh men and women who have been part of the Olympic and Paralympic games.

The entirety of the Newport route can be viewed from pavements or walkways but the best places are likely to be along the river front, Stow Hill and Tredegar Park before it heads to Cardiff.