Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Day I Held The Olympic Torch

I said a while ago that the Olympic torch would be passing through South Leeds on my birthday (25th June) and I was hoping to get a glimpse of it the day before when it passed through North Leeds where I live.

Well I was always a bit worried that there would be such a crowd at the point where it came closest to my house that I'd only catch a fleeting view of it and probably not get any decent photos of the unique occasion. Sad really as I'd only have to go 2.5 miles.

A week or so ago I checked the torch's route again and noticed that today (19th) it was going to pass at a point just 3.8 miles from my house on its journey around West Yorkshire ! I guessed there wouldn't be as big a crowd at this junction as for one thing, today is a weekday and for another, well it's just not as built up an area.

So at 11:30am I set off and by 11:45am I'd parked along the A659 just as before it joins Harrogate Road at Harewood. There was a good crowd built up with loads of school children from the nearby Gateways School who had been lined up to not only cheer on the torch bearer but also meet and greet Princess Beatrice who was going to 'welcome' the torch into Harewood House.

At this point there would be a rest break for the torch and the support team before they all set off again for Harrogate and finally York later on this afternoon. Hopefully a plentiful supply of cucumber sandwiches had been laid on to feed the massed hoard.

Anyway I positioned myself along the road close to a film crew from Turkey who told me they were to be picked up by the media coach and so I reckoned that was THE place to be if I wanted to get photos of the torch/runner starting out. The flame was being driven along the A659 from nearby Wetherby and then the runner would take it from there.

Whilst waiting, I even got a free commemorative bottle of Coke Zero which cannot be bought in the shops and that'll be on eBay later today !

Joking. I drank it there and then but WILL keep the bottle.

Shortly after noon, the police outriders starting arriving and it was a little odd to see them all waving at the crowds lining the road. Initially I thought they were waving us back to make room for the approaching cavalcade but no, they were just smiling and waving ! No doubt they'll be back to normal tomorrow !

Well when I say crowds, there were only about 15 of us at this point on the road as the vast majority had decided to place themselves at the Harewood House junction a few hundred yards west of us. Big mistake.

A few minutes later, the coach arrived with the runners on board. It pulled up right next to me and I only had to move a couple of feet to be at the door when it opened and so I was the first to greet Roy Leinster, the very fit and young looking 75 yr old torch bearer who would carry the flame to the entrance to the grounds of Harewood House.

Yeah I'm not sure why they've given him an extra surname on the BBC site but anyway...........

I don't think anyone else realised what was happening as for a while, I had the whole area to myself.....well just Roy and me ! I had my Nikon in one hand taking HD video footage and my HTC camera in the other hand taking stills. What a star !

A few other people came along and when I saw Roy was happy to pose with anyone, I handed my camera to the nearest honest looking spectator and got in on the act.

In this next photo, you can hopefully see the tiny hole in the torch (as pointed out by the kind spectator) where one of the support staff would use a 'key' to open the gas valve allowing the torch to be lit from the flame of the previous torch, or in this case, from the flame lantern that had been carried on the coach along the A659 from Wetherby.

To save time and where there would be no spectators anyway, the flame travels by coach.

Apparently once the runner has passed on the flame to the next runner, the 'key' is used again to turn off their gas supply, the gas cartridge is removed, and they get to keep the torch shell. Not sure why the cartridges need to be removed but maybe they get recycled into other torches to save needing 8,000 of them, one for each runner. Seems fair enough.

By now everyone in the small crowd had had their photos taken with Roy and his flameless torch so I upped the stakes a bit and asked to be photographed holding it. Well what the hell, how often do you get such an opportunity ? I knew once it was lit, the torch couldn't be held by anyone other than the runner so it was now or never.

Initially I did hold it all on my own without Roy even being 'in the picture' but the person taking the photo with my camera took so long (took 3 attempts) that Roy got a bit nervous and came back into the shot with me. Hey ho.

That opened the floodgates and suddenly everyone fancied holding the torch ! I felt a bit sorry for Roy but thankfully at this point the coach came along with the flame and the support team (all police staff) and so he was able to be led into the middle of the road for his moment of glory.

With the torch lit, Roy only had to run a few hundred yards before passing the flame onto Janet Baker inside the grounds of Harewood House.

I jogged (ha !) as best I could after the procession thinking they'd stop at the traffic lights where 99% of the crowd was gathered. But no, Roy, the torch and all the support vehicles just went across the junction and through the entrance to the grounds of Harewood House. I heard a few people muttering "was that it ?" as they walked back to their cars - and I didn't feel the need to rub it in by showing them the photos and video I'd managed to get.

Once again it paid off using a bit of prior knowledge to pick my spot and spotting that Turkish film crew helped as well.

Finally here is the edited video I took which puts it all into perspective.

I'll probably still go to see the torch again on Sunday but the 'pressure' will be off and it doesn't matter if I only get to see it over the heads of others. I couldn't possibly get any closer to a torch or torch bearer than I did today and I certainly wouldn't be able to hold it again either.

What an experience and thanks to Roy for being such a gent and letting our little select band of spectators share in his special day.


Jennyta said...

Well done you! When will you be signing autographs then?

Helsie said...

Fantastic. What a thrill!

rhymeswithplague said...

I'm impressed, Ian, and that's no small accomplishment.

Daphne said...

I'm delighted that you were in the right place at the right time AND managed to get photos too!

Debby said...

I found the video exciting. You could see how proud he was of having he privelage of carrying the torch. You know I'd have just experienced the moment and had no evidence afterwards....so cool you have the photo's and vids to document the day.

Loved this post.

Yes, I really did watch the video! Are you impressed???

financial advisors said...

Some people enjoy their retirement days and spend time with their families happily. They also free form tension regarding retirement plans.

rhymeswithplague said...

Talk about being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment!

Absolutely fantastic....

Silverback said...

Jenny.......just send that travellers cheque and I'll be happy to sign it.

Helsie.....yes it was a bit of a thrill. Part of which was due to having to do so little to get the memories !

Bob ! What can I say. Two comments. Always good to know I've got the right equipment. Impressed again ?

Daphne.......given the weather forecast for this weekend, I am so glad to have got my memories locked away already.

Debby....wow that IS impressive. Have to admit that my almost steady camerawork was enhanced even more by YouTube software. Very handy.

Financial Advisors.....hopefully no one will click on your trolling link. I'd delete your entry but will leave it as a example.....of awful grammar.

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