We are now on day 25 of our 70 day Torch Relay. So far we have travelled 2,901 miles. 2,829 inspirational Torchbearers have carried the Flame, and millions of people have come out to cheer, wave flags, smile and generally enjoy their own moment to shine as the Relay has brought a little bit of the Olympic spirit to their community.
It is clear that the public appetite for the Torch Relay has not waned in any form. Rather it has continued to build. Through the South West to Wales, through Northern Ireland and across the border to Dublin, and now on the fifth day of its Scottish leg, the Relay continues to surprise and delight its waiting public. This is supported by the BBC’s decision to put the Relay on Red Button to satisfy ‘unprecedented public demand’.
The crowds come out in rain or shine, although it is fair to say that we have more than our fair share of shine compared to the rest of the country. The stories of the Torchbearers are highlighted across all media. Schoolchildren line the route and scream delight when the first flashing lights of the motorcycle outriders come into view ahead of the convoy. They smile cheekily at these men clad in leathers on their huge bikes, who invariably smile back and high five them.
Many of the children carry the homemade Torches they have made as part of the Get Set education programme. They wave at the 'Media One' truck and the now infamous Torchcam, hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves later. Then they are rewarded by what they have waited up to two hours to see – their local hero carrying the Olympic Flame.
This is the public experience. This is what the public sees.
What they don’t see is the army of people and the extraordinary team that are delivering this day in, and day out. 364 people including the core LOCOG team, the Torch Security Team, and our Presenting Partners, work tirelessly around the clock to make sure that although it is Day 25 for us, it feels like Day 1 for every community we pass through.
One such team is Tour Services. They are the 'mum' of the Relay (apart from me that is!), and their job is to source and book the hotels, advance to them to make sure all our rooms are in order, that our bags have arrived, that offices are set up with computers, faxes, photocopiers and radio chargers. They make sure that our food is on the table and are snacks are ready for the coming day. They make sure that our laundry is ready to collect. And they do all of this with a smile on their faces.
Just booking hotel rooms is an enormous challenge. We are a small country and there are few hotels that can cope with the total number of people that make up the Torch Team every night, so on most occasions we are across multiple sites. In Aberystwyth, we had seven hotels in one night.
A total of 26,640 beds have been booked. 12,180 lunches will be eaten, including 5,400 bananas. Our bags (which are heavy) are lugged from hotel to truck, from truck to hotel 31,680 times during the Relay. To set that in context that’s 475,200 kg in total. It’s the early morning workout for the Tour Services team and they have established a stretching class at the end of each shift.
Laundry is a special challenge. Twice a week laundry is collected and picked up. There have been inevitable mix ups, and quite frankly, way too many pairs of pants have been lost. One of the enduring sights of the Tour Services office is the many items of clothing (some too intimate to mention) that lie gently on the floor waiting to be repatriated with their owners (or those who will admit to owning them).
So when you have a break from watching Torchcam, think of the teams behind the scenes. Those that don’t get the glory of the road, but get the tiredness of the team who come back from it.
And spare a thought for some of the questions that they get asked after a 16 hour shift. The best so far from someone staring at a room filled with 300 plus bags was: ‘Anyone seen a bag?’