I’m not a very sporty person, however I admire the Olympic games for its history. Given that there are two very special events taking place this summer, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics, I felt it my duty to make the effort and be a part of the festivities. Today, the Olympic Torch Relay travelled from Chester to Shrewsbury, Broseley, Ironbridge, Telford then later Newport, Stafford and Stoke on Trent. As Telford is not particularly awe-inspiring, I chose to make a visit to Ironbridge to watch the relay.
A Little History
The modern-day Olympic Games have a close relationship with Shropshire and in particular Much Wenlock. One of the two 2012 Olympic Mascots; Wenlock and Mandeville, are named after the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, due to the town’s “Wenlock Olympian Games” which were the inspiration for the modern-day olympic games.
In 1850, the Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society established “The Olympian Class”, an organisation that promoted moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the Much Wenlock residents, by means of out-door recreation. The Olympian Class was very much the pet project of Dr William Penny Brookes, who presided over the first Olympian Games in October 1850. The games consisted of a mixture of athletics, traditional country sports and “fun” events.
The games under the name of The Olympian Class continued for ten years before being renamed in 1860 by Dr Brookes as the “Wenlock Olympian Society”, after which various events from the 1959 Athens games were included in the annual Wenlock Olympian Games.
In 1890 Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited Much Wenlock and after watching the Olympian games, set up the International Olympic Committee in the hopes of turning the Much Wenlock games into a global event. Dr Brookes’ and Coubertin’s dreams were realised in 1896 with the first Modern Olympics being held in Athens, Dr Brookes unfortunately did not live to witness the 1896 games, having died a year earlier. The Much Wenlock games, having continued intermittently since the death of Dr Brookes, have been running annually in July since 1977.
In honour of the contribution Dr Brookes made to the Modern Olympic games, the president of the International Olympic Committee visited Much Wenlock in 1994 and laid a wreath at Brookes’ grave.
In addition to the Much Wenlock Olympic connection, the 2012 Olympic Torch was designed in part by Edward Barber, a man born and raised in Shrewsbury. With all this in mind, it is entirely appropriate that the Olympic Relay spent much of the day in Shropshire, with extended stays in Shrewsbury and Much Wenlock.
The Olympic Torch
Having had tea once again at The Tea Emporium (Assam), Nan asked to go to the charity shop a few stores down, after leaving the charity shop Nan pointed out a man holding one of the torches.
I don’t know whether the gentleman was a runner or organiser, but it is a photo few people would have been able to take.
Getting ready for the main relay, we were all ushered down the Wharfage and onto the pavements to make room for the sponsor lorries & coaches such as Coca Cola, Samsung and HSBC and many police cars & motorcycles so they could travel down the road ahead of the torch.
The Torch Relay began on the other side of The Iron Bridge, the runner travelling across the bridge and then down the Wharfage before heading off to Coalbrookdale and Telford Town Centre.
There was a definite sense of excitement in the air which was quite infectious, even my Nan got out the flags she purchased for the Royal Wedding last year and proceeded to cheer as the torch went by, joined in by the lady next to us who had quite recovered from her earlier faint. The torch passed and I assume was handed to the next torch-bearer, before heading off to its next stop, the crowds merged and began the walk down the Wharfage following the olympic torch procession.
After the relay was over, we spent a grand total of 45 minutes (give or take some), waiting for the coach back to the new Ironbridge park and ride car park. Now I am home, I think it is high time for some tea and freshly baked tea loaf whilst relaxing with some Edith Piaf.
Those of you who would like to read more about Ironbridge, can read about my earlier visit by clicking here.