The Olympic Torch comes to town
We were late!Very annoying. Weeks ago we had planned to be in Skipton High Street well before the Olympic Torch arrived at 4.30pm. But come the actual day, Sunday 24 June, we had forgotten. It wasn’t until 40 minutes before the due time that we remembered – and panicked. There were 5 minutes of vacillation – “It’s too late”, “Maybe, but let’s try”, “We’ll never get through the traffic”, “But it’s a once in a lifetime event” – before we decided to go for it.
A sprint for the car and a dash towards Skipton followed before, just outside of town we hit a line of traffic and there, just ahead, were people dancing atop a bus – the torch parade! A hasty right turn took us through a traffic-calmed estate (my suspension groaned) and the back streets of town before we ditched the car on a grass verge and dashed for Newmarket Street. The sun came out, a great omen.
What an atmosphere.
The streets were thronging with flag waving crowds, people of all ages, noisy and giddy with excitement. There were a few false alarms – a couple of cars drove past causing a ripple of cheering before it was realised that they were ordinary folks heading for home, a cyclist enjoying the attention. Then the police motorcycles arrived, glad-handing the crowds as they eased past, lights flashing. One stopped next to a group of children and quickly organised a synchronised round of ‘three cheers’ conducting them with bravado. I hope he’s as cheerful if he ever pulls me over for speeding!Finally, the sponsors’ vehicles appeared – Coca Cola leading the way, followed by Samsung and others, brightly clothed folks waving and dancing – so we knew it was close. And then, there it was, the Torch. The crowd went wild. A seething mass of wild cheering and union jack waving accompanied the white track suited chap proudly holding the flame aloft and waving to the adoring spectators. He was, perhaps, 70 years old. A local fella; many of the crowd seemed to know him. Shouts of “Well done, Arthur!”, “Arthur, over here”, “Go on, Arthur!” rippled with him along the street.
And suddenly it was all over. A kind of collective, communal sigh occured, followed by everyone agreeing how great it was to be there and then we all turned to walk home or collect hastily, badly parked cars, and do battle with the traffic.
Was it worth it?
Undoubtedly! I was thrilled to have been there, really pleased we made the effort. The torch came and went in seconds it’s true, but the 20 minutes standing absorbing, and being part of, the atmosphere felt exhilarating. We happy band had experienced something that many others had not and, in the years to come, would not be able to. There were photos to prove it and, in my case, a short video.
There’s a film, ‘Yes Man’, about someone who always says Yes when asked to do something, and remarkable things happen. I’m not sure I would go that far, but there is something in it, about making the effort and reaping the rewards.