11:00am Tuesday 24th July 2012
On the 66th day of the Olympic Torch relay, just four days before the Games begin, the flame travelled from Lewisham to Wandsworth and paused for lunch in Croydon. Young reporter Rebecca Compton tells us about her school’s special visit.
Being in school at 9am on the first day of the summer holidays is not a desirable notion but was the reality for staff and the prefect team at St Andrew’s Church of England High School in Croydon yesterday ( July 23).
The early start is quickly forgotten by deputy head-girl Joanna Flynn and prefect Ewan Hyde who express pride and excitement at being given the opportunity to take part in such an event and describe the day as ‘dream-like’ .
There certainly is a surreal atmosphere as the torchbearer who will run the mile before lunch arrives at 10am: Sir Patrick Stewart.
He tells me that he has ‘always been a fan of the Olympics’ and that he was asked to carry the torch, although exactly who is sponsoring him remains ‘a bit of a mystery.’ However, as one of the country’s most celebrated actors he is undeniably deserving of his place in the relay. After adding that he is ‘thrilled,’ Patrick Stewart goes to don his London 2012 tracksuit.
The relay team through Croydon consists of an incredible array of personalities including those who have come from afar, such as Heping Jiang from China, the controller of China Central Television Sports. He tells me he believes that the Beijing Olympics were more organised than London but that each Games has ‘its own characteristics.’
I also speak to Yann Laroche from France who formerly worked for EDF and used to be a marathon runner and to Thomas Rubatscher from Austria who works for a non-governmental organisation that aims to help children become IT literate.
Of course, also among the torchbearers are those who live closer to home, such as Chris Lewis, from West Berkshire, who mentors teenagers with a view to improving their ability to transfer from school to the workplace and Mike Fleet, an athletics coach at Croydon Harriers who also works for the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young). There is a buzz of energy in the room as these inspirational people await their turn with the torch.
Meanwhile, outside on the field, children from Parish Church Primary School, Aerodrome Primary School and Howard Primary School are similarly thrilled and full of energy as they look forward to playing each other at tug of war, hockey, football, handball and a mini steeple chase in a small sports event before welcoming Patrick Stewart and the torch on site.
Jamie and Mina, from Parish Church, say that this is a day they will ‘definitely’ remember. With their school announced as the winners of the competition, they may even go on to become our next Olympians!
As the Samsung, Coca-Cola and Lloyds TSB sponsor vehicles arrive there is a carnival-like atmosphere on the playground. Although it begins to appear slightly chaotic, Mr David Matthews (Head Teacher of St Andrew’s) and Mrs Delyth Simon (Head of Sixth Form), who has organised the event, arrange everything perfectly so that the flame, carried by Patrick Stewart, is greeted by a choir singing ‘Carry the Torch’ and students holding coloured hoops reminiscent of the Olympic rings.
It is the fourth time that the song for the Olympic Torch has been performed on its journey around the country and perhaps the most special time because its composer, Ian Rae, is a music teacher at St Andrew’s.
During this brilliant reception, the crowd become over-excited and almost squash Patrick Stewart in the hope of catching a glimpse of him and the torch! But passion and eagerness cannot be called negative; nobody has a bad word to say about the event.
Whilst the Olympic Convoy have lunch, Delyth Simon says that she is ‘pleased that the children were so enthusiastic’ and David Matthews tells me that he was ‘very very pleased’ with the day. He says ‘the symbolism of the torch chimes with what we do at school day by day – we are involved with the local community and we have links with primary schools. It is a symbolism of hope; when all the hoops, music and smiling faces came together it was possible to see a bright future for Croydon and St Andrew’s is a part of that.’
Everyone then gathers together again to wave off the Olympic Torch as it leaves the school. Let’s hope that, following the Olympic and Paralympic Games, there is a bright future for London and the rest of England as well.
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