Torch fever in the Shire…

25 05 2012

‘Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,

How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?

Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;

God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,

God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.’

(Music by Edward Elgar, Lyrics by AC Benson: 1902)

We are the champions – my friends

And we’ll keep on fighting ‘till the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

‘Cause we are the champions of the world’

(Queen – 1977)

The Torch is coming…

And with it the Countdown to, the greatest show on earth – the London 2012 Olympic Games … 

Torch fever is sweeping Great Britain. Today is Day 7 of the 70 day Olympic Torch Relay – a meandering 8000 mile journey around the British Isles, during which 8000 inspirational torch bearers, aged between 12 and 100 will carry the flame.

Lit in Greece, the cradle of democracy and the spiritual home of the Games, the Olympic flame – symbolising peace, unity and friendship – will pass within one hour of 95% of the population in the UK.

It will shine a light on the best of Britain and is an opportunity for everyone, who wishes to, to be touched by this once in a lifetime event.

I just cannot understand the party poopers. Even for those who have no interest in sport, this should be a period of enormous national pride. The Olympics will be a brief moment in time when the whole world is focussed on our small island – a show case for Great Britain.

If people can’t get their heads around the potential benefits, I feel sorry for them and I’m not going to spell it out here…  

Last Saturday, Ben Ainslie, three-time gold medal winning sailor, had the honour of carrying the torch for the first leg, from Land’s End.  Since then we have seen Chelsea’s Champions League winning striker, Didier Drogba, striding out through Swindon, and fireworks, in Bristol, as the torch passed over Brunel’s iconic, Clifton Suspension Bridge.  

And that was just the start…

On Wednesday an estimated 10,000 spectators, flocked to Cheltenham’s, Prestbury, Racecourse, where the Queen’s grand-daughter, Zara Phillips, added a seal of royal approval to proceedings, holding the torch aloft, astride her chestnut gelding ‘Toytown’, as she rode the final 300m of Day 5, to enormous cheers.    

But the Olympic Torch Relay is really about the participation of ordinary, deserving, people, nominated to represent their various communities.  It was therefore great, for me, that the flame was passed to Zara by someone I actually know.

The well-deserved honour went to Steve Fisher, a stalwart teacher from Tewkesbury, who founded the local primary school sports association 35 years ago, and has been chairman ever since. Countless children in the area have benefitted from his selfless work.    

I must say, I’ve found it quite distasteful, that a few bearers have already auctioned their Olympic torches on eBay. It is an honour to have been nominated to carry an Olympic torch and I find it difficult to comprehend why anybody would want to cash in on, what should become a, treasured, family heirloom.

An acceptable exception might be where the proceeds are donated, in their entirety, to charity.

I do appreciate the argument that times are hard, bearers were required to pay, if they wanted to keep their torches, so some may view it as a providential wind-fall, cashing – in, to ease their financial burdens. As things stand, they are perfectly within their rights to do so, but for me making money in this way rather demeans the spirit of the occasion.       

With a little more forethought, the current, it’s yours, do as you like, situation might never have arisen. The torches could, I would say should, have been presented, free of charge, to bearers, together with a legally binding agreement that they are not to be resold for personal gain. Grump over…                   

From 08.00-10.00, this morning, torch fever swept through Great Malvern. The stately old spa town has rarely seen such pomp and circumstance since the days of Elgar.

Sir Edward, a true Olympian amongst great British composers, had his back turned to the ‘torch kissing’ proceedings, but someone kindly provided him with a golden balloon – one of a thousand, released for the occasion.

Nearby, his statue, the local Malvern Chase School band, treated the crowd to a rendition of Queen’s,‘We are the Champions’. I guess, the sentiment of the lyrics is not million miles away from the triumphalism of ‘Land of Hope and Glory.’ 

To be honest, the arrival and departure of the Olympic flame, was over in a flash. But, the atmosphere of rising anticipation and the street entertainment, during the build up to its arrival – at least on a sunny morning such as today – was enough to paint a flickering smile on every face.  

And let’s be honest anything that does, in these times of austerity, is a plus.

 

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3 responses

26 05 2012
lanceleuven

Very true. People will complain about anything and everything. But like you said at the end, anything that puts a smile on peoples faces in these tough times has to be a good thing. You’ve inspired me to look into when the torch will be passing near me.

29 05 2012
Phil Aldridge

Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed your post on the Belfast murals. I’m hoping to get a cheap flight over there soon. I’ve never been, and I’d also like to take in the Giant’s Causeway.

29 05 2012
lanceleuven

Well I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I highly recommend visiting them. I’m not sure when you read my post but if it was before humourworld added his comments about the Taxi tours it might be worth taking his advice on board and going down that route. The Giant’s Causeway is great too. Very interesting. And if you’re in that area Carrick-a-Rede is a bit of fun if you don’t mind heights. And enjoy the locals! They’re incredibly friendly I found. 🙂

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