During May, June and the first few days of July, the Olympic Torch Relay travelled through the West Midlands shining a spotlight on our landmarks, communities and people.
Our moment to shine
Almost 1.2 million people (or 1 in 5) lined the streets of our region over a 7-day period to welcome and support the Olympic Flame and the inspirational Torchbearers entrusted with the honour of carrying the Torch.
Each leg of the Torch Relay was made special by the creative and engaging ways that communities across the West Midlands came together to celebrate this once-in-a lifetime event. Here are some of the highlights:
On the 24 May the West Midlands welcomed the Flame for the first time during which it travelled on the historic Severn Valley Railway’s “Worcestershire Express” steam locomotive from Bewdley to Kidderminster. The train stopped outside the elephant enclosure at West Midlands Safari Park where two female African elephants waved the union jack flag as part of a “trunk salute”.
On the 30 May, the Olympic Torch Relay travelled through parts of Shropshire and Staffordshire to reach an evening celebration event at Hanley Park in Stoke-on-Trent. Over 12,000 people watched former Olympic hockey player Imran Sherwani, light the cauldron. Another sportsman, Stoke City FC manager and charity fundraiser Tony Pulis was the first Torchbearer of the next day as the Flame headed from Stoke-on-Trent to Bolton.
The 30 June got off to a very moving start when the Olympic Flame visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas on what was National Armed Forces Day. Victoria Cross war hero Corporal Johnson Beharry carried the Olympic Flame through the Arboretum, flanked by soldiers from the Mercian Regiment and cheered by 10,000 people.
Later that day, pop sensation The Wanted carried the Olympic Flame through Newtown in South Staffordshire to crowds of screaming teenage girls! Huge crowds, 10 deep in places, also waited patiently to see Peter Pan of Pop, Sir Cliff Richard carry the Olympic Flame in the city as the penultimate Torchbearer of the day. The Evening Celebration at Cannon Hill Park attracted a crowd of 12,500.
The Olympic Torch Relay departed from Victoria Square in Birmingham at 6am the next day where 9,000 people lined the streets in Birmingham to say farewell to the Olympic Flame as it made its way past landmarks such as the Bullring on its way out of the city.
Later in the day the Torch Relay travelled through the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, passing the near the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre and in front of Shakespeare’s Birthplace. The historic castles in Warwick and Kenilworth also welcomed the Olympic Flame before it headed to War Memorial Park in Coventry for a jubilant evening celebration which attracted crowds of 20,000.
On Monday July 2, hundreds of people gathered in Coventry city centre to see the Olympic Flame leave. The first torchbearer of the day was 18 year old Ali Abdillahi, from Nuneaton, who carried the Flame from Millennium Place to Coventry Cathedral where he was greeted by further crowds and singers from the Belles of Three Spires Choir.
Later that day thousands of people lined the streets of Rugby and Dunchurch in Warwickshire. At Rugby School, where the game of rugby was created by William Webb Ellis in 1823, staff and pupils recreated a 19th century rugby game, played in period kit. When the Flame arrived at the school, the rugby match ceased and the Flame passed through a tunnel of rugby players waving their caps.
To find out more about the impact the Olympic Flame had when it visited our region download the Torch Relay impact evaluation document.
Paralympic Flame Celebrations
On Saturday 25 August four events in the West Midlands celebrated the Paralympic Flame. These events in Cannock, Coventry, Hereford and at Trentham Lake were all very special and unique in their own way, they included:
A disability sports festival at the stunning location of the Trentham Estate where the Flame was paddled across the Lake by World Champion paracanoeist Dan Hopwood.
Coventry’s first Paralympic Gold medallist, Rita Thompson, brought the Paralympic Flame to the Coventry’s Live Site for a celebration of disability sport, art and culture.
At thePoint4 Centre in Hereford, home of the GB Blind Football team, there was a "Have a Go" afternoon of disability sports activities.
In Cannock hundreds of people gathered in the town centre for the start of a Paralympic Flame procession.
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