Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Running of the Flame

Sasha and I were regaled early this morning with the sounds of a bagpiper repeatedly playing the Chariots of Fire theme song. This could only mean one thing: The 2012 Olympic torch would shortly be arriving in town, having begun its Cornish journey in Penzance at 7 AM.

That's right, the citizens of Cornwall were given the opportunity to see history in the making. After arriving at Land's End, the torch made its way to waypoints such as Sennen, Newlyn, Penzance, Marazion, and Helston, before its scheduled appearance in Falmouth at 10:53 AM. It was due to enter town on Dracaena avenue, then meander around the center of town for about an hour before departing for Truro at 12:01 PM.  From our balcony in Events Square, we could see the masses congregating along the road from around 10 AM onwards, and although we had originally planned to view the event from afar and on high, we ultimately decided to go down to the street and join the crowd. We rushed down at the "last minute," about 10 minutes before the torch was supposed to arrive in our parking lot and perform a U-turn before heading back out the way it came in.

Our activities were watched over from above by a helicopter whose presence convinced us that the torch must be nearby. Sadly, we were wrong. A friend who was watching the proceedings elsewhere in Falmouth alerted us that we still had a while to wait, so we did a little people-watching to make the time pass more quickly.

There were lots of little patriots around, some looking more impressed by the festivities than others.


Go dinosaurs!

 The longer we waited, the closer it got to lunch time, and luckily these guys had prepared some snacks to keep them busy when they weren't waving their Union Jacks around.

In case you were wondering, Brits aren't normally as overtly patriotic as, say, Americans, and all these people in the crowd didn't happen to have British flags lying around at home that they could whip out for today's celebration. Most of them bought their gear from vendors like this.


For some people, one flag wasn't enough.

Humans weren't the only ones sporting red, white, and blue; this dog had a red leash and had been decorated with a little red paint.

These guys had one of the best views in the house. After waiting for about 45 minutes and seeing a suspiciously large number of people wander off, we began to worry that the torch had briefly ducked into the parking lot in front of these balconies, then headed back into town without passing our stretch of the road. Sasha went to investigate, and it turned out that the torch bus was just sitting down in the parking lot, allowing these viewers to get loads of good photographs of the handoff between runners (...or whatever else it was they were doing all that time). The people in the right-hand balcony were flying an appropriately-themed English flag, but eventually the people in the left-hand balcony brought out a New Zealand rugby flag:


We think that both groups may have been involved in the recent Finn Cup competition.

Down on the street, there was one lady who had really dressed for the occasion in a vintage-style, Diamond Jubilee-themed outfit:


Sasha was feeling a bit skeptical about the whole affair. However, after nearly an hour of waiting, we FINALLY started to see some action.

There was the very exciting Coca-Cola bus, followed by a Samsung bus (with cheerleaders on top, woo-hoo!), and an HSBC bus...because it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to do a little advertising.

 Then the police came through to clear the road (and do a bit of posing for the cameras):

Then we had a stream of official relay vehicles, including the bus containing all the upcoming runners and spare torches:

Then the official police escort:

Then, at last, the arrival of the flame--a perfect opportunity for my camera to tell me my memory card was full. Luckily I had prepared for just such an emergency, and had my second camera at the ready (in fact, I was so laden with photographic equipment, and was so busy snapping shots, that one of the ladies standing near us mistook me for a professional photographer--ha!). Sasha also had his iPhone at the ready, and between the two of us we got pretty much every angle possible of the event we'd all been waiting for:

And then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the flame was gone again. All told, we waited for about an hour and a half for less than 30 seconds of viewing, but this may be the only time in our lives that we're ever that close to anything Olympic. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning--and all within 100 yards of our apartment!

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