The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) recently announced the route of the Olympic Flame prior to the London 2012 games. 8,000 participants will take part in a 70-day relay across 8,000 miles of the United Kingdom. It is estimated that the torch will pass within 10 miles of 95% of the population.
For those of us still in-and-around Royal Holloway between 10th and 17th July the heat of the flame will be felt even closer. Egham has been chosen as one of 1,018 locations on the torch-bearers’ route. Diverse landmarks have been selected for their prominence, uniqueness or yet-to-be-discovered beauty. Of course, Egham is an irrefutable choice, being the home of one of the most beautiful university campuses in England; but it is the historical significance of the town that puts it on the map. It is one of the main centres of Runnymede Borough where the 1215 Magna Carta was signed, forming the very basis of our democracy.
The journey of the Olympic Flame begins in Olympia, Greece, where the London 2012 torch will be lit. It will enter the UK on 18th May and begin its journey with the first carrier in Lands End, Cornwall. The idea for a torch relay, based on an ancient-Greek myth, was conceived by the founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Coubertin. He believed in a symbol with the power to “pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding between nations, for the good of humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.”
Although the flame is not travelling across the globe as it has in the past, its passage through the United Kingdom this summer, and de Coubertin’s message remains appropriate. Over the past year we have seen areas of the population violently react to current social and economic hardships, resulting in injury and conflict within Britain. Such a positive event as the torch relay will bring thousands of people together in celebration.
Royal Holloway itself has a particularly important role in the 2012 games as an official Olympic Village. Events have already been held to celebrate the upcoming Games, including the special lecture, given by five-time Paralympian Sir Philip Craven MBE, celebrating the Paralympic movement. In 2010 the Creative Campus Initiative was set up as a consortium of thirteen Higher Education Institutions in the South East delivering a dynamic programme of cultural events leading up to the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
The countdown to the London 2012 Olympics continues. Along with Egham, 10 other towns in Surrey were selected for the final leg of the route. The journey of the Olympic Flame will end in Guildford before it enters London for the commencement of the games. The announcement of the torch route has generated much excitement, prompting the organisation of community parties and live-music events throughout the country. Denise Saliagopoulos of Surrey County Council said: “The fact the torch relay will visit so many Surrey towns and villages over three days next summer is a thrilling prospect … I hope as many people as possible turn out to celebrate.”