As one of the millions without a single ticket to next year’s Olympics (I applied on line with the same optimism that had convinced me I would win the first National Lottery draw on 19 November 1994) I am now bracing myself for the possibility that I may not be invited to be one of the 8,000 torch bearers in the 8,000 mile Olympic Torch relay either.
BarberOsgerby’s 2012 Olympic Torch Design pierced with 8,000 holes to represent the 8,000 runners who will carry it
According to The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), the torch relay will come within a one-hour journey of 95% of people in the UK so I am consoling myself by planning where and when I am going to watch this historic event.
In the South East we are spoilt for choice. The torch will leave Land’s End, Cornwall, on the morning of Saturday 19th May 2012 – the day after it arrives in the UK from Greece and will reach the South East on Monday 16th July, day 59 of its journey, when it arrives in Brighton and Hove, travelling via Hastings into Kent where it will go to Dover and Maidstone and then on to Guildford in Surrey (fingers crossed via somewhere in the Sevenoaks/A25 area as in 1948) on Day 63.
Kent was also lucky in torch-viewing terms in the last London Olympics. The 1948 post-War ‘austerity’ Games did not allow for the torch to travel the length and breadth of the UK.
1948 Olympic Torch Design
The torch arrived by sea at Dover late on 28th July 1948. 50,000 people welcomed it and a five-mile long caravan of traffic followed the start of its overnight journey through Kent towards Wembley. “From the moment it arrived, it couldn’t get through,” says Olympic historian Philip Barker. “People were coming out at four in the morning just to see local boys, local athletes, carrying it past.” In Charing, Kent, at 1.30am, 3,000 people mobbed the torchbearer; in Guildford, Surrey, “every available policeman” was needed to control the crowds.
1948 Olympic relay crosses the Thames at Windsor
I think it sounds like an unmissable event and personally I really like the contemporary design that was unveiled earlier this week, even though I am unlikely to get my hands on it.
Quite apart from 5 days worth of opportunities to see the torch relay, the South East is going to be the place to stay during the frenetic Olympic months. Just a short journey to the Olympic sites (for lucky ticket holders) the South East will provide a welcome retreat for those non-ticket days with plenty of wonderful day-out opportunities on offer, not to mention special themed tours and events – watch this space over the coming months for updates!