Bells, blooms – and the Olympic Torch
Sunday 8th July, 2012
Even though the rain was beating hard what better could a boatless boatwif want on a summer Sunday morning than to stand looking at a fine river while church bells ring out joyfully? In front of
When would Something happen? Crash barriers prevented High Street traffic from crossing
Amidst the hubbub came a new noise, a siren. Down the High Street, blue lights flashing, raced an ambulance. A gasp! The crash barriers were edged apart; through the crowds it pushed. It paused, stewards and police swarmed around. Then onward – forward it pushed, right towards the oncoming Torch procession. Activity surrounded the ambulance. Watched from bridge, from pavement, from balconies, from rooftops its driver eased the vehicle backwards, backwards through the crowds. Pressing onwards towards it now came the Action: the bus carrying the relay runners still to carry the Torch, then a huge red Coca Cola band on wheels, next the blue Samsung truck, cheerleaders on its roof, now the Lloyds TSB truck, from which a microphoned voice instructed: “Cheer your runner, her name is Ann, her name is Ann.”
Just on the bridge, just feet away, the next relay runner had been deposited. A cyclist chaperone protected her as the crowds pushed to glimpse an iconic Olympic torch. More blue lights, then slowly, oh so slowly, the yellow flame approached – low down, clamped to a wheelchair, its rider doing wheelie tricks (to impress, and /or in jubilation). Next, obscured from view by the crowds, came The Kiss, the flame passed from torch bearer to torch bearer. Cameras clicked and whirred. Voices called and cheered. A roar, the new torch lit and off it moved, Ann its proud bearer. The trucks rumbled on, back platform camera crew firmly focused on runner and spectators.
Olympia – Land’s End – the West Country – Wales – Isle of Man – Ireland – Scotland – a criss-cross of England – and now through Bedford. What razzmatazz surrounds this simple symbol – and yet the joy it brought, a unifying experience. Across the nations millions have breathed: I saw it, I was there! And for Boatwif too, a thrill: she saw it, she was there.
Gently the crowds began to disperse: why hurry now when the rain had stopped? Down to the riverside Boatwif and Local Friend ambled, crossing the teeming weir, seeing the canoe slalom, watching a narrow boat descend the lock, noting the rain soaked deckchairs set before the bandstand, witnessing dedicated rowers competing down the straight, gaining first glimpse of the just installed Archimedes’ screws, Bedford’s own water-powered energy… On went their amble, past regatta-readied rowing shells and drifting dragon boats, across the river at
ER 1952 – 2012, laid out in recognition of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year.