HISTORY will be made next week when a Harrogate man carries the Olympic torch – for the second time.
John Bickers, now 85, was one of just 100 people chosen to carry the Olympic torch in the build-up to the 1948 London Olympics.
At the time, he was serving as a corporal with the Royal Engineers at the Survey Training Centre RE in Warminster, Wiltshire, and was a three-mile runner with his unit’s athletic team. He was chosen to carry the torch for two miles as it travelled to Torquay, where the sailing events were being held.
Although there were crowds lining the route while he ran, Mr Bickers said the torch relay was on a much smaller scale than it will be this year.
“I turned up at the appointed place in a village called Charlton and there was nobody there,” he said. “I waited and eventually somebody from the Olympic committee arrived. I changed into my running gear and took over the flame from another Army colleague of mine, Don Wilde.
“I ignited my torch from Don’s and set off to do my two miles to Shaftesbury.
“By now it was dark. However, with a police motorcycle in front, and one either side of me, a car behind which carried officials and a back-up flame, people cheering me on, I got to my end point on time. I was covered in a heat rash, but I passed the flame on to the next runner, dashed my torch into a provided bucket of water, got dressed and went to a bed and breakfast place ‘on the house’. That was it!”
In 2012, there is full media coverage of the relay, along with people’s mobile phones and cameras to capture every moment of the event, which has been planned out to the finest detail – a far cry from the simplicity of 1948.
“The hype is tremendous,” said Mr Bickers. “I find it quite fascinating.”
Mr Bickers plans to buy his torch to go along with the one he was allowed to keep in 1948, and will add it to his collection of memorabilia which he will pass on to his family.