The Olympic flame passed through Torquay this afternoon on its tour around Britain before reaching London in July. The route of the torch relay was close to the marina. Unfortunately, Katie was a bit under the weather today (I think she’s got another tooth coming through), so Julian watched over her while she slept through the afternoon, and I took Lily up to see the torch pass by.
I can compare it to my recent experience of going to see the Queen when she visited Exeter University recently. I couldn’t believe the massive security presence today – cops in vans, on motorbikes, in cars, walking – everywhere. And private security too. There were fewer weapons on display than during the Queen’s visit. I found the security presence unsettling on both occasions. The crowd in Torquay today was friendly and relaxed, lots of families out with their children. Do we really need riot police sitting in vans waiting to jump out in case there’s violence? What did they think we were going to do? It was so over the top I can’t imagine what security will be like for the actual Olympics.
Security aside, and blanking out the blatant commercialism of the whole thing (Coca Cola ahoy), watching the young girl run by carrying the Olympic flame was moving (in more ways than one – we were pushed aside by the heavies running along either side of her – they’ve clearly taken the justified disruptions of Beijing a bit too much to heart). Lily was on my shoulders and of course she loved the spectacle of the whole thing – waving and clapping, and when the girl carrying the flame ran past us I just had to run too!! Along with perhaps 10 other people, I started to run flat out alongside the girl, Lily bouncing on my shoulders, her life jacket swaying from side to side, hanging from the back of my knapsack. Lily was screaming ‘I like this, I like this’ and we ran and ran for about 200 yards, until that torch bearer met with the next one and passed the flame on. And then we ran for about another 50 yards with the next torch bearer, at which point I suspected I might have a heart attack, and stopped.
Lily was upset. ‘We couldn’t catch the torch’ she said. I think she thought the object of my maniacal running was to capture the Olympic flame for ourselves! I explained to her that the flame was on its way to London, and if it didn’t get there the Olympics couldn’t start. But she wasn’t impressed by my explanation and the only thing that could quell her tears of disappointment was an icecream. And I thought I deserved one too for my Olympian feat!