Historic moment as torch relay arrives

tis  Caitlin Chang carries the Olympic Torch through Harrogate.  (120619M1s)

tis Caitlin Chang carries the Olympic Torch through Harrogate. (120619M1s)

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There were unprecedented scenes in Harrogate on Tuesday, as thousands turned out to see the Olympic torch pass through on its way to London.

The most eager were in place from 10am, but most people arrived around two hours before the torch was due, with the crowds swelling just in time for the 2-3pm time slot.

Groups of schoolchildren played on the Stray as they waited, and a lucky team of runners from Harrogate Grammar School even got to run with the torch (see front page).

Dennis Gilliland, who was getting cricket updates on the radio while he waited, said: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. I’m excited about the whole of the Olympics – I’m sports-mad, anyway.”

His wife, Jennie Gilliland, added: “I shouldn’t tell you this, but he can remember the last time the Olympics were in the UK, when he was eight years old.”

Kerry and Michael Wright, of Knightingdale Drive, with Poppy, 11 weeks, and Esme, two-and-three-quarters, were waiting for the torch in Starbeck.

Kerry said: “We might not ever see it again.

“Poppy won’t know now what’s going on but she can say that she was there.

“I’m a teacher at Starbeck Primary School and they were all coming out, so I thought I would come down too. It’s fantastic to watch, and to see so many people.

“We didn’t think so many people would be here but the turn out has been fantastic. Everybody’s so excited.”

Groups of friends were also on the route to see the action. Harrogate High School pupils Jack Dobson, Sara Shaw, Larry Vaskevicius and Dimal Luzha said they wanted to be part of history and they were enjoying the community spirit of the day.

At Rossett Acre Primary School, pupils were allowed to go home at lunchtime, but many families and school staff met on the Stray to watch the relay together.

Advanced teaching assistant Mandy Nunns said: “We were told we could watch the relay if we wanted. I think everybody decided to go to it because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Meanwhile, Esther Jones, who was there with her father, Peter Birkby, to see the relay, said they had mostly decided to attend for her children: Rosie, six, Nicholas, four, Molly, two, and six-week-old Jake. “Everybody else is doing it and if you don’t do it, you’ll miss out,” she added.

And twins Alex and Harry Considine, 11, said it was worth the long wait to see the torch pass by. “It was really good,” they said, almost in unison.

So what are they looking forward to in the Olympics?

“The 100m,” said Harry. “I’m supporting Usain Bolt.”

For full coverage of the relay, see pages 19-23 of this week’s Advertiser, out from Thursday, June 21.