Olympic torch route: facts and myths

The route of the torches for the 2012 London Olympic Games, published yesterday, boasts an 8,000 mile procession through the UK – but will only be carried on foot for one quarter of that distance. Time spent in boats and planes is inescapable but for most of 75% of its progress it will be in a car.

However, some of its alternatives to carriage on foot should be fun. It won’t always sneak away in a car. It will be on horseback and in a canoe. It will be carried in a sidecar on the Isle of Man’s TT route, ‘abseil’ down  the tower at Grimsby dock tower drift in a helium balloon over Cornwall’s Eden Project eco-attraction, ride white water rapids in Hertfordshire and take a zip wire across the Tyne Bridge.

Whatever the route, it was never going to satisfy everyone but this one seems curiously devoid of a set of guiding policies behind the choices of arrival points.

As it is, its very much a bit of this and a bit of that. It pops up one mountain – Snowdon,. It stops by one landmark piece of public art – the Angel of the North. It will nod at Hadrian’s Wall, see the sun come up at Stonehenge – and spend one of its last nights on tour, locked up alone in the Tower of London. Poor choice of symbolic timing. Wasn’t this the place from which the imprisoned were taken to their deaths?

In terms of the devolved nations, the ‘flame’ (actually gas canisters in individual torches) has:

  • 6 destinations in Wales: Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth, Snowdon, Bangor and Beaumaris (Anglesey).
  • 6 destination in Northern Ireland: Belfast, Ballymena, Portrush, Londonderry (ahem), Newry and Newcastle.
  • 12 destinations in Scotland: Dumfries, Stranraer, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness, Stoproway, Kirkwall, Lerwick and John of Groats.

There’s a skite to the Isle of Man with a stop at Castletown, Jersey and Guernsey get a flash past each and the rest of the stops are in England.

While it is not fair to grouse because something like this can never meet all expectations, the organisers have been foolish in making the inflated claim that the route takes in every county and borough. This sort of boast simply attracts the nerds (like us) to see if it’s accurate.

It is minimally true in that the route skirts the eastern and northerm fringes of the mighty Argyll – the nearest it comes is passing through Dumbarton, Luss, Tarbet, Tyndrum and Glencoe.

If it touches Sutherland or Skye and Wester Ross, show us where it does.

It looks to us from the details, that it flies from Inverness to Kirkwall, to Lerwick, to Stornoway and back to Inverness.

The entire west coast of Scotland is a blank. Apart from the obligatory touch down at John o’Groats, so is the north coast.

There is an honour on being a place that keeps its own counsel.

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36 Responses to Olympic torch route: facts and myths

  1. Since when was Carlisle in Scotland?
    Since when was Chester in Wales?

    Why the “(ahem)” next to Londonderry?

    The whole article was a rather poor attempt at sneering at London 2012. Come on, you know that you can do better than that and I’m certain you are itching to.


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    • For W.S.: We’ve obviously got trouble with borders. Apologies. Chester will now be sent home.

      The Londonderry (ahem) thing was a bit of an in-joke. In Northern Ireland, ‘Londonderry’ was flaunted by unionists and avoided by nationalists and Republicans `9who lost the ‘London’ and re3ferred to it as ‘Derry’). Quitge what to call the city became a difficult shibboleth for Protestant nationalsts and republicans and for Roman Catholic unionists.

      The BBC’s solution was carefully always to refer to the city by its dual identities, spoken by newsreaders etc as ‘Londonderry or Derry’, and then ‘Londonderry stroke Derry’ (Londonderry/Derry). The broadcaster Gerry Anderson started calling it ;’Stroke City’ – a ‘stroke; of genius that caught on and could be owned by everyone

      And yes, we take the point that this is not our most coherent article. It;s not intended to be sniping as much as crossly correcting deceptive PR myths – but it has got caught in a dissatisfaction that turned out to be more complex than we had time to deal with as we were publishing it.

      This was born of irritation with the ‘bit of this, bit of that’ choice of stopping points – as with Stonehenge, Snowdon and the Angel of the Northj.

      We started to consider how it might better have made its decisions on these destinations. Assuming that it would visit all the major centres of population in each of the four nations in the UK, the question was how to select the rest.

      Geographical coverage is an issue because, as with Scotland, huge swathes of the country from which it is absent sends a visual message of neglect.

      We came up with all sorts of ideas and simply had to stop wasting time reinventing the wheel – but it would have been fun to see it at the major prehistoric sites, tapping in to that power and making those connections.

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  2. Er…Carlisle is in England (last time I looked: things may have changed!) In any case, the much-vaunted “torch run through every county in the UK ” has died by the wayside before begun. Argyll stop is …where? Not that it really matters: just some other nonsense we all have to pay for. We (UK) could have saved endless billions if the Olympic bid had been withdrawn. Not a time to play when food and heat are running short. Just a thought

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    • For Barmore: It must be instinctive reverse imperialism, but we’ve always placed Carlisle in Scotland – so we’re putting our own head in the stocks – after making the correcttion.

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    • The Argyll stops – you have a whole 2 to choose from, however they are not that far apart: Luss and Tarbet.

      Yes, we are still part of Argyll – although we’re all thinking of defecting to West Dunbartonshire!

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  3. But they’re telling us that no one should be more than a few miles away from somewhere en route.” Has this been published anywhere? ie can you send me a link?

    Jean Digby I heard Lord Coe himself say so on the BBC news. As often happens they make grossly exagerated claims then don’t come up with the goods.

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  4. I think the organizers have done a good job in getting geographical coverage and don’t know how you can say the West is a blank when Stornoway is one of the stops . Where was Argyll & Butes MSP when the route was being drawn up to push the case for this area ?

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    • Whilst there are a couple of highland / island locations these are being flown to so the contact with the local communities is not happening throughout the area.
      Other areas of the UK have the flame travelling through, each small place being given the opportunity to celebrate the fact. This gives the local schools, for instance, to create projects around the flame and olympics that can culminate in it’s local presence.
      It smacks of tokenism and certainly belies the statement of 95% of the population being within 10 miles of the flame.

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  5. Surely the only feasible answer to getting the Olympic flame around an area as topographically challenged as Argyll would be to tie some brave soul on top of a vintage biplane, holding the torch aloft, then zoom around buzzing each school in turn… all it needs is a spell of carefully arranged good flying weather.

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      • Mea culpa, Ken. To be serious, I cannot for the life of me understand why the torch can’t at the very least be carried through Fort William and Oban to Campbeltown – still far more than 10 miles from many people, but at least recognising that this area is part of Britain, rather than conveniently ignorable.

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  6. I think they only referred to counties for England and Wales, they talked of administrative areas or something similar in Scotland (basically the old regions).

    I seem to remember that when the torch was first shown it was said there was one hole in the pierced metal for each person carrying it (8000?) so someone estimated the number and it was nothing like that figure, complete hype.

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  7. Does anyone in Argyll really care about the London Olympics?

    VisitScotland has said it would “tactically target” those looking to get away from the South East during London 2012. Perhaps Argyll should bill itself as an ‘Olympics-Free’ destination.

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  8. There seems to be an insidious undercurrent here.

    Does no-one appreciate things like the London Olympics really serve to enrich our lives?
    Other items to remember and appreciate include the London Millennium Dome, the London Eye, the London Eurostar link, London cross-rail, the London Birmingham HS2 link.

    Kintyre1 is completely correct. We should stop moaning and be glad that we can assist in funding such wonderful projects as they bring so much reward to Scotland. . .

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    • For Grant MacDonald: What you’re talking about applies within Argyll as well as in Scotland.

      It is in no one’s interests for positive initiatives anywhere, from anyone, to fail. Their success not only contributes to the general economy but generates widespread publicity and creates a buzz that, as Jim Mather used to say, sees all our boats lifted on the same tide.

      Our own point was that the organisers paid insufficient attention to the profound value of genuine – as opposed to tokenist – inclusiveness. (Japan and South Korea shared a games – and there will be events in Scotland.)

      The Olympic Games is always riveting stuff – particularly from the democratic ringside seat of the television set.

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  9. “The Olympic Games is always riveting stuff..”

    Pardon me if I disagree. It long ago lost its amateur ethos, and with it any sense of what it was about.

    The notion of a ‘Team GB’ featuring Wayne Rooney as a would-be Olympian says it all.

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    • But Redgrave and Pinsent; Redgrave, Pinsent, Foster and Cracknell; Hodge, Reed, Partridge and Williams; Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Seb Coe, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, John Walker, Haile Gebrselassie, Rod Dixon, Abebe Bikila, Colin Jackson,. Chris Hoy, Mark Cavendish, Lynn Davies, Jonathan Edwards, Tom Daly, Ian Thorpe, Markl Spitz, Olga Korbut, Lyudmila Tourischeva, Nadia Comaneci, Torvill and Dean, Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Liz McColgan, Allan Wells, David Wilkie, Duncan Goodhew, Kelly Holmes, Kathy Freeman, Amy Williams, Eddie the Eagle, Matti Nykänen and….

      And, admitting to moral dereliction, doped or not, the sight of Ben Johnson steaming down the 100 metre track in 9.79 at the Seoul Olympics with the whites of his eyes visible at distance – like an Easter Island head – was unforgettable.

      Sad or not, all of this – and much more – has been enriching.

      And could not agree more roundly on the foollishness of Team GB – and Rooney as an Olympian.

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  10. Tyndrum of course is in Perthshire; Luss and Tarbet are really in Dunbartonshire, though Heath apportioned them to Argyll. This leaves Argyll as a flame-free (-proof?) zone, apart from Glencoe which has certain dubious connotations in our island story. Whether this is a good thing or not I really don’t know. Quite clearly the powers that be have decided to ignore Argyll (the torch could easily have been routed from Northern Ireland to Kintyre, following St. Columba’s precedent, then up through Kintyre, Lorn, Cowal…). No doubt its momentary passing could have spurred some brief interest, but do we need this ballyhoo? Argyll folk will get a far better view of it on the television in Scunthorpe, Bideford, Wigan or even Stornoway (sic) than from a passing motorcade, with or without Chinese outriders. As one of the millions whose life in London promises to be made intolerable for well over a month, flight to the Olympics-free zone of Argyll has never seemed so attractive.

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    • Sorry to burst your bubble here Dugald, but Luss and Tarbet are part of Argyll now and have not been part of Dunbartonshire since the end of the regional councils.

      Luss has a postcode for Alexandria, and a phone area code for Helensburgh – as if it wasn’t confusing enough.

      However, if it meant that Luss Primary wouldn’t be under threat of closure again, please feel free to stick us back in with Dunbartonshire.

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