Olympic torch set to blaze through town

Olympic torch nomiee George Stocker
Olympic torch nomiee George Stocker

The OLYMPIC torch will blaze through the Wetherby district in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the community next year.

Routes, drawn up by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), were announced this week and will see it pass through Wetherby, Boston Spa, Harewood, Tadcaster and little Barkston Ash on June 19.

Wetherby Town Council has now said it hopes to be able to link the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee - two weeks before the Olympics flame’s arrival - with the Olympic torch arrival.

Town Mayor Cindy Bentley told the Wetherby News: “It is an absolute honour for this to come through our town, and we are very keen that the decorations for the Diamond Jubilee will be kept up for the torch relay.

“We are also hoping to involve the local community, particularly schools and young people, as much as possible.”

Wetherby ward councillor and deputy mayor of Wetherby Alan Lamb said the torch relay would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Wetherby.

He said: “For those brief few moments the eyes of the world will be on our town.

“It is a terrific opportunity to put Wetherby on the map.

“We are hoping it will stop here as well as travel through, particualrly outside the Wetherby Town Hall where it can be seen by as many people as possible.”

As well as criss-crossing through towns and villages, the Olympic torch is set to stop outside a number of schools in the district - including Tadcaster Community Riverside School.

Headteacher Ian Yapp said he was “delighted” with the news.

“We are inviting all primary school children in Tadcaster down to Riverside so that we can ‘wave the flag’ and celebrate together.

“We don’t know timings yet, but hope that it will be such that we can have 700 children having a picnic on site too.”

The exact route, including transport and timings, will be decided early next year.

Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke said he is keen to use the event to boost the local economy in Wetherby.

He said: “It’s far too early at this stage to say what our plans will be on the day, however, this is a unique opportunity to help boost the local economy and with this in mind, I have already spoken to Wetherby Town Council to put forward several ideas relating to street stalls and street parties involving all the local schoolchildren.

“This is a very important event in the history of our local area and one which we need to maximise to the full in what will be a day of great celebration.”

Local torch bearer nominees include Maureen Brewer, chairman of Wetherby and District Crime Prevention Panel, and Wetherby boy George Stocker, nominated by his friends at Wetherby Rugby Club.

George, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008 at only nine years of age, underwent intensive chemotherapy and has since raised more than £50,000 for the charity Candlelighters.

He told the Wetherby News: “My friends and family have been such a great support for me over the years and I would love to be able to carry the Olympic Flame in honour of them in my hometown – it would be a dream come true,”

Tadcaster MP Nigel Adams, who fought a long campaign to bring the torch to Tadcaster, said he was “thrilled” with the news.

“I was very confident that we would be able to get the torch to travel through Tadcaster and now that we have, I am delighted.

“I am now working with the district council but we hope the torch does stop here in our main street and as many people as possible will see it.”

Meanwhile, surprises were in store for residents of Barkston Ash after it was revealed that the Olympic torch would be travelling through their small village.

Chairman of Barkston Ash parish council, Jonathon Hirst, said the news the torch coming through came as a big surprise.

“We are delighted, and a little surprised that the torch will be coming through our village.

“What we are hoping for on the day is for it to stay here for as long as possible and spend some time with the children from Barkston Ash Catholic Primary School as it passes through.

“I think with the logistics of the torch route what we would really like is for it to jog or walk through the smaller villages and taken by car to the main towns.

“Barkston Ash is a village, of only 120 houses here but we still think we have a lot of historical importance and a lot to offer, being at the centre of Yorkshire.”

The Olympic flame will initially arrive in the UK from Greece on May 18, 2012.

The relay will start at Land’s End, Cornwall, on Saturday, May 19 and end on Friday, July 27 in the Olympic Stadium.

The torch is expected to come within 10 miles of 95 per cent of the population.