The Olympic Torch Relay: One of those twice in a lifetime experiences
The Olympic Torch Relay has taken the nation by storm. On the back of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, I can’t remember a time where communities have come out in such numbers in such close succession. Come rain or shine, it has certainly heralded the start of summer and a positive pride in Britain.
I was honoured when Lord Seb Coe wrote to ask if I would carry the flame. Along with the other 7999 torch runners, this is probably the closest we will get to be Olympians ourselves. And so I was certainly surprised when the event organisers called the day before my run to ask if I would also be willing to cycle the torch across the Forth Road Bridge.
At 4am I pulled on the white tracksuit, brilliantly designed to be of no use for anything but being a torchbearer. Alike to an early ’90 shell suit, although hopefully less flammable.
By 5.30am I was in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland and the entourage began to arrive. In all, 330 men and women keep the torch on track around the UK – a brilliantly complicated operation that makes cycling around the world look somewhat elementary.
The only part of my torchbearers’ invitation that I had been disappointed in was the request to run at 7am. Not to sound an egomaniac, but I had hoped for a more prime time slot. 7am in sleepy St Andrews would surely see me running past the postman and the odd person who doesn’t need much. There certainly wouldn’t be any students up at that hour.
How wrong I was. The town was alive! It’s hard to guess, but there had to be a thousand or more people crammed in the old University Square and down the main streets to watch Sir Menzies Campbell and other dignitaries kick off the morning’s ceremony. My part, started from the stage, convinced me to run and not cycle with the Torch. No amount of practice would have allowed me to cycle off stage one handed holding a flame. I will leave that to Danny Macaskill. The run was brilliant, impossible to describe, a confusion of shouts, claps and camera flashes and then, all too quickly, it was over and I passed the flame to 13 year old Joe Forrester.
Each torch has about 12 minutes burn time. This would make my next relay a bit trickier. By midday I was set up by the Forth Road Bridge, arguable Scotland’s most iconic structure and ready to cycle the 2.5km from Fife into Lothian. The Metropolitan Police team, who are each running a marathon every day in support of the Torch would have their work cut out to keep up with me on a bike. We set off and the media helicopter hovered brilliantly close, capturing the crossing. I kept checking the flame worried it would blow out.
The Torch weighs exactly 1kg, which is no big deal to hold briefly aloft, but if you carry two bags of sugar at arms length for 20 minutes, you will realise my task. With the helicopters robotic cameras fixed on me and many other cameramen stationed across the Bridge, my grin thinly veiled the fact my arm felt like it would soon fall off. But it was brilliant fun and really good to see so many children and families coming out to be a part of those moments.
And so that was my ‘Moment(s) to Shine;’ that unforgettable twice in a lifetime experience.
Packing everything away I accidentally dropped ‘my Torch’ out of the car door. A small dent now proves that it is definitely mine and makes sure that I would never give into temptation to make my millions on eBay!London 2012, Olympic Games, olympics, Seb Coe, torch, torch bearer
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