British police battled to keep pro-Tibet demonstrators away from the Beijing Olympics flame as it passed through London, arresting 37 protestors who tried to disrupt the high-security tour.

Olympic gold medallist Kelly Holmes took the torch from footballer Theo Walcott and ran the last leg of the 48km route to east London's O2 Arena where she lit a cauldron before hundreds of onlookers.

Earlier in the day there were continual scuffles along the route as each member of the relay team of renowned British athletes, pop stars and television personalities handed over the flame to the next runner.

Police on bicycles and on foot escorted each member of the relay.

Two demonstrators against China's crackdown in Tibet were arrested as they attempted to extinguish the torch and a third was pushed to the ground as he tried to seize the flame from television presenter Konnie Huq.

Police said they made 37 arrests and estimated that more than 1,000 demonstrators turned out.

Of those arrested, three were bailed pending further inquiries, while the remainder were either cautioned, received a fine or released with no further action.

A Beijing Olympic official stongly criticised attempts by the pro-Tibet activists to disrupt the torch relay..

Shouts of ‘Free Tibet, Free Tibet,’ echoed around the London streets, while demonstrators held up banners and had their faces painted in the colours of the Tibetan flag. Pro-China supporters were also out in force.

Former Olympic champion rower Steve Redgrave started the relay at Wembley Stadium. There were arrests as Mr Redgrave handed over the flame to a 16-year-old girl.

Beijing has faced international criticism over its crackdown on protests in Tibet which have spread to other Tibetan areas of China .

Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people have been killed in the unrest. China has given a figure of 20.

But China's top official in Tibet insisted that the torch relay would pass through Tibet as planned.

Some 2,000 British police officers were deployed to protect the London torch procession.

The torch was met by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at his Downing Street residence. Mr Brown has brushed aside criticism of his plans to attend Beijing Olympic ceremonies, insisting it is the right thing as London will host the 2012 Games.

The torch heads for Paris tomorrow and French authorities have also prepared massive security for the relay which has sparked protests since it was lit in Greece a week ago at the start of its 137,000km, 21-country journey to Beijing.