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Olympic flame lights up the Westcountry

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 21, 2012

Young torchbearer Henry De Trogoff carries the Olympic flame on the leg between Totnes and Paignton yesterday

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In a weekend when the Westcountry showed the world how to party, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to welcome the start of the Olympic torch relay in spectacular style.

Rapturous scenes at Land's End, where the flame began its journey early on Saturday, were repeated time and again throughout the region.

Police estimated 100,000 people had turned out in Cornwall on Saturday – around a fifth of the population – and 55,000 joined an evening party on Plymouth Hoe. Such was the clamour for a view of the event that police had to restrict the number of people congregating in the area.

Although the head count was still under way for the first half of the Devon leg yesterday, organisers said it was likely that even more people would be watching the historic relay.

Triple Olympic gold medal winner Ben Ainslie was the first torchbearer, leaving the famous signpost at Land's End about 10 minutes later than the 7am departure originally scheduled.

The former Truro School pupil, whose parents live on The Lizard, calmly strolled his 300 metre leg, basking in the moment and posing for photographs.

Afterwards and looking elated, he told the Western Morning News: "The atmosphere was electric."

Mr Ainslie, who admitted to being a little nervous beforehand, said he was "honoured" and "proud" to have been chosen to start the 8,000-mile relay which ends at the Olympic Games opening ceremony on July 27.

"It's great for Cornwall for it to kick off at Land's End," he said.

"Everyone here was so excited that it felt right to stop and for people have a feel of the torch."

The flame had been transported from Greece to RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall the previous night and was kept in four guarded lanterns.

It was flown to Land's End by a helicopter crew from the station's 771 squadron, who perform search and rescue missions, then carried to Mr Ainslie by Lieutenant Commander Richie Full.

He said: "It felt brilliant.

"I'm very proud and very excited to have been a part of this, especially as we are based in Cornwall and this is where we do our search and rescue business.

"It's special for everyone to have been a part of something so symbolic."

The bright, sunny morning was in stark contrast to the thick fog experienced a year ago when the torch route was unveiled at Land's End by triple jumper Jonathan Edwards.

On hand to see the start of the relay, the former Olympic gold winner, who grew up in Ilfracombe and is a member of the London Games organising committee, described the moment as "just beautiful."

"It's actually very hard to put into words. It's quite emotional," he added.

After the flame zigzagged 136 miles across Cornwall thanks to 139 torchbearers, it crossed the Tamar Bridge for a night in Plymouth.

Yesterday, 121 torchbearers continued the relay, travelling just over 84 miles.

People turned out in force from a total of 16 communities with the relay passing iconic Devon landmarks including Dartmouth Harbour, Torre Abbey and Exeter Cathedral.

In the South Devon towns of Shaldon and Teignmouth, home-grown rock band Muse provided a sprinkle of stardust when they took part in the relay.

Many of the torchbearers had been nominated for their battles against adversity, including registered blind artist Barrie Goodfellow who lives in Exeter and carried the Olympic torch through Dartmouth accompanied by his guide dog Marshall.

Nominated for his work making art accessible to the blind, he said: "It is a great honour to be given the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch for something I simply enjoy which is helping others".

The torch relay arrived in Exeter last night, prompting the usually serene surroundings of the city's Cathedral to erupt into a massive party.

The venue more used to choral performances was the centrepiece for a concert attended by around 8,000 people, where Devon folk group Show of Hands performed alongside pop chart-topper Labrinth, who had performed the previous evening.

The celebrations marked a fitting end to a weekend in which joyous scenes from around the two counties were beamed to an estimated global audience of one billion.

It all began on Friday night when the golden liveried plane, BA2012, touched down at RNAS Culdrose and the flame was delivered to UK soil by a delegation including superstar footballer and former England David Beckham.

Also on board was Cornwall county badminton player and Helston Community College student Georgia Higgs, one of upcoming sports stars chosen to act as youth ambassadors.

The 15-year-old, who lives at Leedstown, between Helston and Hayle, summed up the occasion for many people.

"It was a complete honour which I will remember for the rest of my life," she said.

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  • newplymouth  |  May 21 2012, 10:59AM

    Very well done Cornwall then Plymouth for turning out in such numbers to welcome the Torch 50,000 people reported to be on the Hoe wow!

  • GingerWhisker  |  May 21 2012, 10:41AM

    The torch relay was originally Hitlers idea for the 1936 olympics (the 11th olympics) held in Germany. The next olympics held in Germany were in Munich in 1972 (36 x 2) were a terrorist attack killed 11 israel atheletes. Rick Clay died exposing the next terroist / false flag attack planned for the 2012 London olympics.

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