This morning we announced the 1000+
villages, towns and cities that will play host to the Olympic Torch Relay on
its 70-day journey across the UK next year. We had set ourselves the ambitious goal
of 95% of the population being within a one-hour journey of the Olympic Flame
and we have achieved that.
Getting to this point has been something of a marathon. Far
from placing pins on a map, route planning, I have learned, is an exact
science. The 8,000 miles that we will journey have now been driven four times
by our team of Advance
Managers. At this stage of the game, we are literally counting lampposts and
identifying the beginning and end of each slot for our 8,000 Torchbearers, but
it all began nearly two years ago.
A delicate balance
We began planning the route at the beginning of 2010, working
with every Nation and Region of the UK. A robust process of consultation has
continued since then with Local Authorities, colleagues in policing and
transport and representatives from sectors such as heritage, tourism, sport,
culture, who have worked with us to devise a route that showcases the historical
and social diversity of the UK.
There have been many considerations to take into account and this route is the result of some delicate balancing acts. We know that we can’t possibly go everywhere, but we wanted to make sure that we reached as many communities as possible. However, we’ve also had to consider many other things such as getting our convoy through some of the smaller villages in the UK, traffic movements and plane and ferry timetables and of course, security planning. We have also been mindful of just how much you can do in any one day – I don’t want to wear the team out!
What we have as a result is a Torch Relay that will be within 10 miles of 95% of the population. We also have a route that is reflective of who and what we are, and via which we hope to give communities across the UK their moment to shine.
And what moments they will be! From the Highlands of Scotland to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland; from Mount Snowdon in Wales to Stonehenge in England, the Flame will travel to all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways. Whether it is by bicycle, on horseback, on a steam railway or perhaps even a zip wire, you can expect to see all sorts of intriguing modes of transport as the Flame makes its way around the UK.
On a personal level, it has been extraordinary watching the
route come to life. From an initial vision, through to the overlay of
landmarks, backdrops, people and places, we now have the exact co-ordinates of
where we will be on a day by day and minute by minute basis.
Yet although we know what each day will look like from an operational point of view, it is of course, what the local communities will bring that will give the Relay its flavour. On my travels around the UK, I have begun to have a sense of what that might be like. The anticipation and desire to get involved is overwhelming. There is extraordinary creativity out there, and we have just started to get a sense of how people will mark the Torch Relay when it comes to a place near them.
Celebrate in style
So, apart from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the London 2012 Olympic Flame, what can you expect to see when the Torch Relay comes to a location near to where you are? Well, you will see some of the 8,000 inspirational people who have been selected as Torchbearers. Many of them will be from your own community as we have committed to ensuring people carry the Flame near to where they live. You will also see lots of street entertainment from our sponsors, but also local community groups who are getting together to see how best to celebrate the arrival of the Flame.
And how can you get involved? That’s easy. You will now know the nearest town to you that the Torch Relay will visit. The street level route will be published nearer the time and so the simplest thing that you can do is to come out to and line the route. You may choose to make a make a banner or flag to welcome the Olympic Flame; you may want to get together with friends and family; you may want to extend the celebration long after the Flame has left and so choose to host a community gathering. It really is down to you.
So, we are now just over six months away from the Olympic Flame arriving in the UK on Friday, 18 May next year. From that point we will embark on an extraordinary 70-day journey that will take us to the four corners of the UK. 8,000 miles. Every mile driven, tested, planned. And it's an amazing though that when we drive them again, they will be accompanied by cheering crowds, flags and banners and one Olympic Flame. We hope to see you there!
Find out more about the Olympic Torch Relay