Early on a Sunday morning, before breakfast had even been eaten, the family and I headed to a little area in Birmingham called Earlswood, to see the Olympic torch pass through.
Now, I’m not exactly a huge fan of sports, but I am a huge supporter of friends and family and it just so happens that a friend was picked to be torchbearer for this section of the relay, en route to the London opening ceremony. So of course I was going to be there.
This friend is Glenn Scott. Born with Talipes, which is better known as club foot, he had to have several operations including the removal of his ankle bone to correct the position of his feet. He has been a sprinter for the past three years now, participating in both national and international disabled races. In addition to his sporting achievements, he is also heavily involved in charity work. The 19 year old makes you sick with inspiration [read his full nomination story ].
Getting back to the torch relay itself, I have to admit that I wasn’t overly excited about getting up early and being surrounded by pushing crowds for a glimpse of fire, but standing by Glenn’s starting point, the crowds were thin (mostly further down the street) and the atmosphere was electric. Anticipation was building as motorbike police escorts started to appear, high-fiving children as they idly passed by. The torch bearer bus then came into view, dropping Glenn off at his start point and proceeding with the other runners to theirs. Huge cheers greeted Glenn as he descended off the bus and posed for many, many pictures with his unlit torch, his mother bursting with pride.
After a little wait members of the torch’s security team came along and reminded Glenn of the procedure, turning the gas on on his gold coloured torch and giving him a bit of a pep talk to calm any nerves. Whilst this was going on, the torch runner’s convoy slowly came into view. The small crowd surrounding Glenn hurriedly took their photos and made way for runner Will Smith (not the actor) who 3 years ago was diagnosed with cancer [again, read his nomination story on the torch bearers website].
Watching in awe as the two boys crossed torches, passing and receiving the flame, the crowds cheered again, taking more photos to mark the occasion. The two boys posed, pulling a bit of a Usain Bolt before Glenn commenced his 300 metre jog with the flame of Olympia. I jogged alongside Glenn and the torch’s entourage for a little while but as the crowd thickened, I decided that I had enough photos and off Glenn went to the next torch bearer.
For someone quite cynical about seeing a bit of fire, I found it a rather exciting, if a somewhat fleeting, moment. And putting the flame into perspective a little bit, it really is quite amazing. People all over the country are looking at the flame, worldwide even; and not to sound too soppy but it’s kind of a symbol of unity and community, a representation of how sport transcends cultural differences; bringing together people of all ages and ethnicity.
I may not be a full convert to sport but I can appreciate its value.