The Olympic Torch came to my town today. It came at ten on a Sunday morning. This is better than two towns over, where it arrived at five in the morning. I went along as it's a free family event, and as I knew one of the runners, it would be a little churlish not to participate in this 'once in a lifetime' event that has been taking place for weeks and is now so banal even the BBC have stopped talking about it.
Obviously it looked like it would rain, so everybody brought an umbrella, but didn't rain, so people had to needlessly carry an umbrella. It was due to reach our town at 10:06 precisely. Not five past, six minutes past. On the dot. What they would do if the person running stopped to tie a shoelace? It would throw the whole schedule out.
With it coming through at 10:06, and it being a ten minute drive to where there would be some parking somewhere closer to the route than where we lived, we naturally set off at nine in the morning so we could grab a good spot. Strangely, it was a good job we did, as there were already thousands of people lining the route. It was a long route, so we did get a good space.
The route was well known in advance, with plenty of signs around warning motorists that the road would be closed for a little while, and a piece in the borough's free paper. The standard of literacy among drivers is obviously woeful, as there were a large number of vehicles that had decided that ten on a Sunday morning was a good time to drive past the route of the Olympic Torch. No doubt, they sat in their cars cursing at the road block suddenly put in their way. There were a lot of police around. Although they were happy and smiley and waving at the crowds from the back of their motorbikes, and their main reason was to keep the path clear, no doubt if anybody tried to steal the torch, they'd be right there. Although as the last torch was sold on eBay for ninety-nine pence, it was unlikely that anybody would want to steal one. A flooded market, you see.
We stood beside the road for an hour. then the pre-torch parade came past. Five coaches from five of the sponsors came past handing out free things. Except for Samsung, who just handed out free sound. Those people who had bought flags from opportunistic street traders suddenly felt a little foolish as anybody without a flag who wanted one, was given one. One of the sounds handed out by the Samsung coach was the news that the torch was five minutes away. Good news, as both children were now so bored that they had resorted to insulting random strangers.
The the torch barer ran past.
She wore white, and had a torch.
And then was gone.
Twenty seconds maximum.
It reminded me of the one and only time I watched the RAC Rally, queued for an hour into the car park, waited for four hours, watched the cars go past for a minute or two, then queued for an hour to get out of the car park.
It was slightly different. Having the torch come through our town is a big deal. Five coaches, two mini buses, a phalanx of police motorbikes and a woman in white holding a torch is bigger than the summer carnival parade. That is normally so poor that the one time the taxi rank was full, it was a better show. For this reason, the entertainment budget had been blown for the year, and there was a big event in the town centre that had attracted market traders, and more people than had ever been in the town at one time.
The camera that displayed the dance troops on a big screen so that most of the people in the crowd could see the dancers, did not show any of the dance troops; the cameraman's mother was obviously in the crowd, and it was focused on her for at least twenty minutes,meaning that the dance the troop had worked on all year was seen by the forty people at the front of the crowd.
We had a choice, we could hang around and hope that enough people went home for us to see, the cameraman remembered why he was there, or we could go home. We went home.
And I can now tell my grandchildren, should I ever have any, and I still retain the power of speech by then, that I saw the Olympic Torch. Although, judging by the number of people that have seen the Olympic Torch, it would be more impressive if I was one of the limited number of people that had never seen the torch.