Torch of cheer draws crowds

Date published: 25 June 2012

20,000 out to welcome relay runs
MEMORABLE, inspiring, brilliant — just some of the words on the lips of proud Oldhamers who welcomed the Olympic torch through the town yesteday.

Under threatening skies around 20,000 of them shone with pride and did the borough proud as they embraced the arrival of the flame. As the rain managed to hold off the streets were a sea of Union Flags and cheering faces as 11 inspirational London 2012 torchbearers paraded the Olympic flame through the streets.

The town buzzed with excitement as mums, dads, grans, granddads, young and old clamoured for a view of the amazing spectacle, which is working its way around the country during a 70-day relay.

Cries of “it’s coming” were heard as people spotted the relay convoy in the distance shortly before 10.45am. Champion Thai boxer Andrew Lofthouse from Fitton Hill was mobbed as he waited on Ashton Road for the honour of being the first Oldhamer to carry the flame in his home town.

It was passed to him by Lindsey Muir (62) from Stockport who had completed the first leg.

The stunned 21-year-old started his stint outside his former school, Hathershaw College, and said: “I did not expect this many people — it’s unbelievable.

“It’s just fantastic to be selected to do something as prestigious as this. It’s great to be involved.”

Andrew handed over the torch to teenager Megan Cordwell on Ashton Road, near Denbigh Street.

The 13 year old from Hathershaw has done several charity runs, but they didn’t prepare her for her history-making moment: “I can’t really explain it. I was really nervous and I didn’t expect so many people. I loved everything about it,” she said

Sporty Saddleworth School pupil Catherine Stott (12) who has cerebral palsy carried the flame past the civic centre on Rochdale Road before climbing up St Mary’s Way. Mum Jill said: “It went absolutely fantastically. She was a little bit nervous, but I think she was more excited than anything.”

Next was Oldham’s oldest torchbearer 94-year-old Thora Beddard, from Ashton, who had to cut her route slightly short due to exhaustion. The crowds erupted into joyous applause as she handed over the flame to Australian humanitarian Moira Kelly in Henshaw Street.

Onlookers said they were there for two reasons — to do the town proud and witness a once-in-a-lifetime event. “It’s a bit of history and one I’ll never see again,” laughed 78-year-old Marion Scoltock, from Shaw, who was there with granddaughter Abigail Wild.

“We wanted to come today and show our support for the country and the town, it’s not something you see very often and we feel proud to be here,” added 14-year-old Abigail.

Behind the scenes over 100 volunteers came forward to help the torch make its way through the borough without a hitch. Volunteer and Oldham Council assistant director Jill Beaumont praised the army of helpers and Oldhamers who turned out in their thousands.

“It went fantastically well, it went as smoothly as you could hope for.”

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