The Olympics came to Middlesbrough and was welcomed with open arms as an estimated 30 000 poured out onto the streets to welcome the Torch relay. That truly is a community ‘getting in the Olympic spirit’ when a quarter of the population come out on the streets.
The Olympic Torch travelled through our region from Durham to Middlesbrough, via Hartlepool, Billingham, Sedgefield, Shildon, Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Stockton and many places in between. Everywhere it was greeted with packed streets festooned in bunting, people waving flags and getting well and truly into the spirit.
Today the torch has continued on its way after 17 year old Acklam student James Coupland held the flame proudly aloft on top of the gondola of the Transporter Bridge. This will surely become one of the iconic visions from the entire 8 000 mile journey. Earlier 300 runners had risen at dawn from their beds to race 5km around the Transporter.
There were an estimated 15 000 people lining the streets between Newport Bridge and Central Square. Linthorpe Road was awash red white and blue as the torch relay passed along it. The destination was a grand party in Central Square where another 15 000 people were waiting patiently being entertained by amongst others north eastern band, Little Comets who hung out their percussion on their washing line before playing it. Introduced by Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere the band helped warm the crowd up before the real star of the show ran into the arena.
To loud chants of “Chloe, Chloe” teenager Chloe Meehan (pictured) carried the torch to the big stage before lighting the cauldron. Her face was a real picture as she ran past MIMA. It was part shock and awe no doubt at the size of the crowd that she was sharing this incredible moment in her life with.
Chloe later described the feeling as “the best thing ever.” Hard to disagree that is was an amazing event. All the waiting and anticipation and then seeing that flame shoot past and light the large bowl of flames.
Later as we wandered back through the disappearing crowds we reflected on the day at the official BBQ at Al Forno. What an event it had been for Teesside. We truly feel a part of something now. A place firmly on the map in this epic journey of 8000 people sharing torch carrying duties right across the length and breadth of Britain.
There is no doubt about it, that torch relay touched the hearts and minds of everyone and for the first time I think it feels as if some of the Olympic spirit has wafted away from London and grabbed a hold up here on Teesside. On the day when tickets for the Riverside GB warm up games went on sale the Olympics truly arrived on Teesside.
Photo by Tracy Hyman