01/Sep/2014 - Last News Update: 12:02

Reflecting on the Olympic torch's six-day relay through Wales

Category: Wales

Published: 31st May 2012 08:43:00

Perhaps there is someone out there who can make the case that the Olympic torch relay's six-day visit to Wales was anything other than an unmitigated success.

Enormous crowds, uncynical enthusiasm and temperatures more typical of Athens itself made for a procession around the country that the organisers - and those working in Wales' tourism industry - could only have dreamed of.

I was lucky enough to follow its journey around Wales, through the industrial south, then heading up into the Welsh speaking heartlands of Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Anglesey before turning east along the north Wales coast and, finally, dropping south for its exit from the country at Welshpool.

I kept an open mind about a tradition that was started by the Nazis at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and supposedly represents Prometheus's theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus.

However, at my first stop at Big Pit in Blaenavon there were hundreds of enthusiastic, uncynical children who shared none of my concerns.

Yes, the weather helped but I lost count of the number of people who said to me it was a 'once in a lifetime opportunity'”

Unexpectedly, it proved to be a moving moment seeing the lit flame carried for the first time.

Or was it just the reaction of the children that was tweaking at my heart strings?

There had been rumours of possible protests, possibly in some of the Welsh speaking areas.

The only protest I came across was two guys in Wrexham town centre who had made a banner pointing out Wales was not represented on the Union flag.

They also made a very reasonable point about how the Olympic mountain biking could have taken place at some of the existing world class venues in Wales rather than at a purpose built track in south east England.

I saw them again later walking with their banner around Wrexham's Guildhall where an incredible number of people had risen from their beds at a ludicrously early hour to greet the torch.

They must have felt like two swimmers heading into a tide while carrying a shot putt.

There was also a discordant note from some in Cwmbran, which was bypassed by the torch unlike some of its smaller neighbours, such as Pontypool.

A town with few iconic sights maybe, but it has a population approaching 50,000 and is the biggest centre of commerce and population in Torfaen.

And I came across a woman in Beaumaris on Anglesey who came out to watch the torch but questioned the cost of the relay at a time of recession.

The in-your-face commercialism and branding from the main sponsors at each stop would also not have pleased those who hoped to witness more Olympian ideals on show.

But the sceptics were in a tiny minority and the crowds were impressive, even overwhelming at times.

Take this snapshot for example: 20,000 in Haverfordwest, 25,000 in Caerphilly and about one-third of Aberystwyth's population at Vicarage Fields for one of the evening torch concerts.

Local councils estimated around 700,000 people turned out throughout Wales.

The Welsh Local Government Association's chief executive Steve Thomas said Wales had been "innovative in the ways in which the torch has travelled".

It has been a "great opportunity to celebrate the inspiring stories of the fantastic work that the torch bearers have done in order to be nominated to carry the torch across Wales", he added.

Yes, the weather helped but I lost count of the number of people who said to me it was a "once in a lifetime opportunity".

It became a catchphrase but was probably true for all but the youngest torch watchers.

My personal highlights included interviewing a man who is associated with all that is good about the Olympics, five times gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave, who was at a Blue Peter event in Caerphilly.

But the real highlight was the uplifting delight and enthusiasm of the spectators and the torchbearers themselves, some of whom had incredible tales of hardship and courage.

Surely it was all worth it for that alone.

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Reflecting on the Olympic torch's six-day relay through Wales [Online] (Updated 31st May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1432006/Reflecting-on-the-Olympic-torchs-six-day-relay-through-Wales [Accessed 1st Sep 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Boy hit by lorry on crossing named as Leo Gregory from Exeter

    A 12-year-old boy who died after he was hit by a skip lorry on a zebra crossing has been named by police.
  • Blue plaques for poet and polar hero

    Polar explorer Edgar Evans and poet Vernon Watkins - a close friend of Dylan Thomas - are each to have a blue plaque in their honour in Swansea.
  • BBC begins kids coding push with Bitesize and TV shows

    The BBC has published computer programming study guides, quizzes and other support materials on its Bitesize site to coincide with the new computing curriculum's introduction in England.
  • Scott Rogers: Shot TV host faced grand jury appearance

    A British man shot dead in the United States was due to appear before a grand jury on the day he was killed.
  • BBC World Service boss Peter Horrocks to step down

    The director of the BBC World Service, Peter Horrocks, is to leave the corporation in the New Year, it has been announced.