There is a line in the film Field of Dreams that says: ‘If you build it, they will come’. Three years after the planning for the Olympic Torch Relay began, the British public have certainly come out and nodded their approval.
From the moment the BA2012 The Firefly touched down at RNAS Culdrose, the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay team – who hold this project so close to our hearts – felt that something magical might be starting.
Looking out of the window of the Search and Rescue helicopter as I accompanied the Olympic Flame on its short journey to Land’s End last Saturday, I was struck by the crowds that had gathered so early in the morning. Ten thousand people had come out. Our first Torchbearer, triple-gold medallist Ben Ainslie, waved to the crowd and, on completing his 300 metres, passed the Flame to 18-year-old Tassie Swallow, a local young surfer. She then passed the Flame to Eric Smith, 76, who won the George Medal as a helicopter rescue winchman in 1962 for rescuing people from a wreck at Land’s End. And we were off.
As we travelled through Cornwall and into Devon, the crowds grew. Union Jacks lined the streets; Chariots of Fire blasted out from speakers; a lone trumpeter played the National Anthem; and the Brownies, Scouts, the WI and the Over 50s Clubs were out in force.
As we approached Plymouth Hoe, 40,000 people had gathered to see 12-year-old Madeleine Wood from Penrice Community College – our final Torchbearer of the day – carry the Olympic Flame onto the stage and light the celebration cauldron.
Sharing the moment of a lifetime
So far so good for Day 1. Could we repeat it? I am currently sitting in Singleton Park in Swansea on Day 8 of the Relay, preparing for our next Evening Celebration. The intervening seven days have seen the public take the Torch to their hearts. Wherever we have travelled, be it through a small village or a large city, the crowds have come out to cheer us on
Throughout the glorious South West of England, from Exeter to Ilfracombe, through Bristol to Cheltenham, through Gloucestershire, Worcester and the Malverns, the people of the UK have come out to share in the moment of a lifetime, to witness the Olympic Flame and to celebrate the inspirational Torchbearers who have been nominated to carry it.
First taste of London 2012
Yesterday we travelled to Wales and completed our first evening in Cardiff. For the next four days we will travel through this nation and early signs are that the response will be exactly the same. Welsh choirs sing out. The Welsh flag is proudly waved and the crowds gather. Community festivals and sporting events wrap themselves around us as people get their first proper taste of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
To date, we have travelled over 900 miles and over 1,000 inspirational people have carried the Flame. The sun has shone on our beautiful Torches and over one million people have taken time out from their day to share a little bit of history. It is overwhelming to see.
We have all built it together – and still they come.