I was lucky enough to have been nominated to carry the Paralympic flame as part of the 24 hour relay from the home of the Paralympic Games in Stoke Mandeville to the Olympic stadium in Stratford.
It was quite a honour to be amongst just 560 people selected for this. I was nomination by Tyree Robinson (Thanks!), who runs the local Diss-Ability Multi Sports club alongside Jill and myself. The nomination was primarily linked to this and other voluntary sports coaching with people who have a learning disability that I have undertaken over the last 15 years or so. Read More. It must be pointed out however that I have been just one of hundreds of volunteers involved in these activities with people like my wife Jill perhaps more deserving of such an occasion than myself.
I have to admit to also being quite dubious about the time slot I had been allocated – 3:37a.m. in Harrow…it would be dark, cold and would anyone be there to see it or would everyone be tucked up in bed at that time?
We tried to get a little sleep beforehand and got out of our hotel bed at…wait for it…12:45 a.m. Jill seemed to wake up much quicker than I did and somehow seemed quite with it! We had a rendezvous point at Bushy Country Club at 1:40a.m where we would pick up the torch and meet the rest of the 5 man team I would be completing the relay with.
We were bussed to our start points alongside several other teams. On the way each one of us had to stand up and say why we had been nominated. My team included two gentleman who work with those who have had spinal cord injuries, helping them to adapt to their new situation and providing new motivation. The team also featured a gentleman who had raised a massive amount of cash for charity and Susan Pipes, who is a Special Olympics World champion gymnast. There certainly were some impressive stories from the other teams too. Read more.
As you will know, the torch relay was delayed by a couple of hours and eventually didn’t make it to the stadium in time to light the cauldron and signal the start of the games, so a part of the flame was sent on ahead…such a shame. However, this was not down to me! The relay was already a couple of hours behind schedule when it arrived in Harrow, so it was about 5:30a.m. by the time my team got involved. I don’t think the organisers had accounted for the fact that many of the torch bearers would be a bit slower than those during the Olympic version.
Surprisingly there were people lining the route most of the way. We stepped off the bus into a wall of noise. It felt like there was hundreds of people there, but there was probably only 70-80 who were very excited! They had been waiting there most of the night apparently, which really is dedication. Jill joined them as the flame approached with the crowd’s anticipation and excitement levels growing as it got closer and closer. I was thinking more along the lines of ‘I hope I don’t trip up and set fire to someone or something’…
The flame was transferred to our team and we were off! Having waited so patiently, the crowd just seemed to follow us, picking up more people along the way meaning the noise was constant. It was also a bonus that Jill was so close we could even chat a little as we went. In total we carried the flame for about half a mile with each person taking the lead for approximately 130 metres. It seemed to take an age with photo stops and the like, but that meant you could savour the occasion more. I was the last in our team, so I also got to hand over the flame to the next group via the ‘Paralympic Kiss’, achieved by placing our torches together for a few seconds.
So, all done, but what a great experience…a once in a lifetime opportunity! The weather was kind, the crowds were surprisingly lively and there was a nice atmosphere generally. Over-all I am really pleased to have been part of the London 2012 games even if it was only in a small way. The only question is what do we do with the torch now? Ebay? Only kidding, I think we will mount this little bit of history somewhere on the wall at home.