Great reception for Torch in London21/07/2012 - 11:45:17
The Olympic torch received a rapturous reception from thousands of well-wishers who rose early to mark its arrival in the Games’ host city of London today.
After being greeted by crowds all over Britain, the flame started its first full day in London at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, in the south east of the capital.
A carnival atmosphere spread through the streets of the Olympic borough as the rain of recent weeks gave way to brilliant sunshine and bands played for the crowds.
People of all ages and many nationalities turned out for the torch as the party mood took hold around the newly restored Cutty Sark clipper.
The torch began its London journey at the meridian, at Greenwich Royal Observatory, across the river Thames from Canary Wharf and overlooking the site of the Olympics’ equestrian events.
Natasha Sinha, 15, from Greenwich, who was nominated to carry the torch for her dedication to swimming and cross-country running, took the flame down into the equestrian arena.
It was then carried around Cristopher Wren’s Naval College before arriving at the Cutty Sark, which has recently undergone a £50m renovation.
Robin Knox-Johnson, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, founder of the Clipper Round the World yacht race in 1995 and a Cutty Sark trustee, ran the torch around the clipper to delighted cheers from the crowds.
The torch later made its way to Private Jaco van Gass, 25, from South Africa, who carried the flame on to the stage at the Woolwich Live Site, a screen which broadcasts local news and BBC coverage of major events, sport, arts and entertainment.
Pte van Gass, who now lives in Woolwich, lost his left arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while serving with the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan in 2009.
He also suffered a collapsed lung, punctured internal organs, loss of muscle from the upper left thigh, multiple shrapnel wounds and fractures to his knee, fibula and tibia.
Pte van Gass last year successfully trekked to the North Pole for the Walking With The Wounded charity, and was part of an attempt to climb Mount Everest this year, which was aborted because of dangerous conditions.
After carrying the torch, he said: “It was fantastic. I’m really looking forward to the Games. As a dual citizen – of South Africa and Great Britain - I’ve got double the chance of celebrating.”
Crossing over the Thames, the torch will make its first move into east London before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford next week.
It will be taken around the streets of host boroughs Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest, stopping off at Stepney Green Park, Hackney Town Hall and Leyton Cricket Ground.
Fauja Singh, a 101-year-old marathon runner from Ilford, east London, will be carrying the flame through Newham after completing the London Marathon in seven hours 49 minutes in April.
Last night, Royal Marine Commando Martyn Williams abseiled into the Tower of London with the flame.
He undertook the 180ft descent from a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter at 2012 hours before a torch carried by Dame Kelly Holmes was lit from his flame.
Afterwards, the 23-year-old from Nacton, Suffolk, dedicated the feat to the family of Lance Corporal Steven “Jamie” Fellows who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in December 2008.
“I was driving a Jackal armoured vehicle in Sangin. It hit a roadside bomb, an IED, which struck the passenger side of the vehicle,” he said.
“He was killed in the incident, I got away with literally just a broken foot. A few months recovery and now I’m fully fit, so I’m very lucky.”
The torch spent the night under guard at the 11th century tower.
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