Whole island to bask in glow of Olympic torch relay


IN LESS than three months’ time some 600 people on both sides of the Border will be limbering up to carry the London 2012 Olympic torch.

The torch, weighing 800 grams (1.76 lbs), will arrive in Belfast on June 3rd to be borne through more than 60 towns and villages in Northern Ireland, and briefly heading south for a morning around the streets of Dublin.

Over the course of the relay, it will pass within 10 miles of 95 per cent of the Northern Ireland population.

The 70-day relay begins at Land’s End, Cornwall, on May 19th, with the torch arriving at the Olympic opening ceremony in London on July 27th. Overall, there will be 8,000 torchbearers and an average of 115 runners will carry the torch each day. Its triangular, gold-coloured form is perforated by 8,000 circles representing the number of runners.

Torchbearers were generally chosen based on inspirational stories told about them and on what they had contributed to society. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Campbell from south Belfast nominated her mother, Pauline, for her fundraising for research into motor-neurone disease.

Pauline’s husband, Michael, died from the disease in 1998. In the dozen or so years she has been participating in sponsored runs, she has raised over £100,000. This involved two four-day 100km (62-mile) runs in Cuba and Morocco, a Belfast marathon and several Belfast marathon relays.

She said yesterday she was “thrilled to bits” that Hannah — the youngest of her four children — nominated her. “I used to dream of running in the Olympics, and this is almost as good. It is just such an honour,” she said.

Each runner will have an individual torch. They will pass the Olympic flame from torch to torch, rather than handing over the torch itself. Each participant will run 300m (330 yards) .

Pauline hasn’t been allocated a route yet, but hopes it will be on the evening of June 6th when the torch returns from Dublin. “We’ve been told our routes will be fairly close to where we live so that our family and friends can cheer us on,” she explained.

The Olympic torch relay will begin in Northern Ireland at the Titanic Belfast visitor centre shortly after 6am on June 3rd, travel through Hollywood, Bangor, Newtownards and Comber. After a visit to Stormont, it will begin making its journey throughout Northern Ireland.

The torch will be on the island of Ireland for five days, until Thursday June 7th. On June 6th it will be carried through parts of Dublin, having arrived at the city by motor convoy. Starting at Croke Park, it will travel from the north of the city, past the Garden of Remembrance and along O’Connell Street and a number of other streets before crossing the Liffey and ending up, around lunchtime, at the Mansion House in Dawson Street.

“The visit of the Olympic flame in June will be a wonderful opportunity for Ireland to be even more closely involved with the 2012 London Olympic Games and for Irish people to be part of the biggest sporting event in the world,” said the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring.

The torch will then travel by convoy back across the Border to Newry, Lisburn and Belfast. During its time in the North, it will be carried over the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and also across Lough Neagh and the River Bann. After Northern Ireland, the torch crosses the Irish Sea to Scotland.

The relay was an opportunity for the “entire island to shine”, said the North’s sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín. “The relay will showcase and celebrate our torchbearers, who are inspirational people who do so much for their local communities.

“The eyes of the world will be on our beautiful landscape and iconic buildings, and our amazing cultural and sporting achievements,” she added. “Excitement is growing, now that local people can begin to plan where the torchbearers will be carrying the torch in their areas, and plan to celebrate the arrival in their communities.”

Torch Factfile

800mmin height

8,000the number of circles on the torch, representing the torchbearers

800grams the weight of the torch. It is made from an special aluminium alloy developed for the aerospace and automotive industry and was designed by east Londoners Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby