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Olympic torch begins tour, heading to News Shopper area
IT WAS lit at the ancient home of the Games last week, and now the Olympic torch is heading around the country.
DUE to travel within an hour of 95 per cent of the population, the torch was picked up by David Beckham from Athens on Friday, alongside a group of five British youngsters who have shown a dedication to sport.
The torch was ignited according to a precise ritual by sunlight at the Temple of Hera in Olympia before being taken on a brief tour of the country.
Following the handover, it was flown over to RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall in a golden BA jet named The Firefly in a competition among schools and colleges.
Gold medal sailor at three Olympics, Ben Ainslie became the first of 8,000 volunteers to carry it, commencing the 70-day relay in Land’s End.
The torch will be used to light the cauldron at the Olympic opening ceremony on July 27, which stays lit until the end of the games.
On its way round the country, the torch will be carried through Higham and Gravesend on the morning on July 20 before reaching Greenwich on July 21, Bexley on July 22 and Lewisham and Bromley on July 23.
A free evening celebration will be held at Danson Park in Welling with entertainment including Brit award winners Rizzle Kicks. Tickets are required, go to Bexley.gov.uk for information.
THE torch was designed by east Londoners Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby and features 8,000 holes to represent the 8,000 volunteers who will carry it.
It is 800mm tall and was manufactured to be as light as possible.
In ancient times, it was part of the cultural festival and a flame on the altar of goddess Hera stayed alight for the duration of the Games.
Just like in ancient Greece, the flame will be extinguished in London at the end of the Games.
The modern version of the Olympic torch and relay was introduced for the Games in Berlin in 1936 and has featured at every Games since, as well as the Winter Olympics since Salt Lake City in 2002.
This time round the relay has been sponsored by Coca Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung.
Nineteen volunteers carry the torch through Gravesend and Higham on July 20.
Mum-of-three Emma Salisbury, 40, of East Hill in Dartford was nominated because of her efforts in raising £250,000 for research into a degenerative eye condition which her son Tommy, 11, suffers from.
She told News Shopper in March she planned to hire an open top bus so friends, family and supporters of Tommy can see her carry the torch in Gravesend.
Dartford Judo Club coach Suki Barton will carry the flame through Barking and Dagenham on July 22.
The 35-year-old, also of East Hill in Dartford, won bronze at the national under 18s judo championships when she was 15.
But she had to give up elite-level competition when she was diagnosed with endometriosis, which she hopes to raise awareness of.
Greenwich and Lewisham
Forty-nine volunteers will carry the flame through Greenwich and Lewisham, including 62-year-old Van Cuong Truong from Catford who escaped extreme poverty in Vietnam to set up the Indo-Chinese Community Centre in Deptford in the early 1980s.
He has worked tirelessly raising funds ever since to develop the centre into the biggest of its kind, acting as headteacher to the school’s 350 pupils.
He said: "I feel very honoured to be involved in the grand festivities, particularly because I come from a minority group.
"As a minority we need to help our own people to be independent and to be able to support themselves.
"If we can do that then they will be better placed to join the community and that is what the centre is all about."
Diabetic athlete Gavin Griffiths from Erith is due to carry the Olympic torch in Westgate-on-Sea.
The 20-year-old, who attended Trinity School in Belvedere, recently ran 43 miles from Hastings to Brighton in one day to raise money for diabetes research charity JDRF.
He said: "As a diabetic, I’ve always wanted to try and show others even if you’re diabetic, it doesn’t stop you from doing sport."
Sailor Aaron Reynolds, from Erith, is one of the 28 volunteers due to carry the torch around Bexley.
The 18-year-old won the Royal Yachting Association’s Thames Valley Young Sailor of the Year award in 2010 and is a dedicated, active instructor teaching others to sail.
Mother and daughter from Hayes, Brenda Cordingley, 79, and Jenny Simmonds, 51, will both carry the Olympic torch after being recognised for their outstanding service to the community.
Brenda, a former St John ambulance officer who supports her church and Hayes Horticultural Society, spends her time ferrying people to hospital in her car or lending a sympathetic ear.
She was described as "a legend" by her daughter, who nursed her husband through cancer while bringing up three children.
She founded the first toddler group in the Somerset village where she now lives, helped rebuild the village hall and was a school governor.
Mum and daughter have already had a practice run with a substitute torch - a large peppermill that Jenny reckoned weighed around the same as the Games torch. "We had a trial run with the peppermill," laughed Brenda.
"I just have to carry the torch 300 metres but I wanted to make sure I could manage it. I won’t be running with it though - I’ll be walking!"