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Olympic Torch Relay Begins in Cornwall

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5:24pm 19th May 2012
(Updated 5:24pm 19th May 2012)

After years of planning the Olympic torch is starting a seventy day tour around the UK from Cornwall.

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The flame touched down at RNAS Culdrose in a golden plane, flight number BA 2012. It has been burning in a cauldron since arriving on Friday afternoon.

Early on Saturday 771 squadron flew it to Land's End in a helicopter. Lieutenant Commander Martin Shepherd said, "We're really proud. It's a great opportunity and it's a real honour for the search and rescue squadron at Culdrose to get to do something like this. The actual Land's End complex, it's an area we use quite a lot for training so we're very familiar with the area."

Falmouth sailor and three times Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie ran the first stretch with the torch. He told Pirate FM, "It's really exciting for the whole nation and for Cornwall in particular to have the torch starting off at Land's End. The great thing about the torch is it gives everybody the opportunity to get close to the Olympics as it builds up over the next couple of months so it's a really exciting time."

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Torch bearers are carrying it through Land's End, Sennen, Newlyn, Penzance, Marazion, Rosudgeon, Ashton, Breage, Helston, Falmouth, Truro, Newquay, St Stephen, St Austell, Stenalees, Bugle, Lanivet, Bodmin, Liskeard and Saltash before it crosses the Tamar bridge just after seven o'clock on Saturday evening. You can find the route and timings here.

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Coastguard Dave Jackson has been picked for his home town Sennen. He said, "It's absolutely amazing to be part of something that'll be seen worldwide. For Cornwall and the country I feel quite proud and honoured to be asked to do this. It's not every day you get asked every day."

David Beckham said that it was right that lifesavers such as Dave should be involved, "The unsung heroes running the flame through the country - now it becomes really special and now it becomes the people's games."

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Tens of thousands of people are spilling out onto the streets to try to get a glimpse of the torch as it passes. They stood eight or nine deep in Truro. Police estimate around 15,000 turned out in Falmouth with another 5,000 on Truro's Lemon Quay. So far more than 30,000 people have swamped the route to watch it happen.

Some wore fancy dress or organised themed parties to celebrate the historic moment.

One woman told Pirate FM, "The atmosphere here is super. It's just one of those days that makes you so glad to be British. It's fantastic. It's so nice for us to get something for a change. To be first, to be the place it started, the weather and everybody's just delightful. Well done to Cornwall."

Another added, "There's been some brilliant outfits and I hear there are more to come. We're at the centre of the world right now and all eyes are on us. It's so fantastic that it's Cornwall."

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Police are urging people to keep their distance from the torch. It is after someone trying to take a photo got too close to the runner shortly after leaving Land's End and was shoved to the side of the road by security teams. Officers are describing it as a minor incident.

Superintendant Chris Singer said, “We are joining with communities to help them to enjoy the passage of the torch through the towns and villages in Cornwall and Devon, to ensure that each torch bearer, all of whom have a story to tell, enjoy their moment. The police role for safety and security sees us working hand in hand with partners to ensure that the event is successful and the focus is very much on the torch and the individual torch bearers.”
 
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Sebastian Coe, Chair of LOCOG, said, "The start of the Olympic Torch Relay is the beginning of an exciting summer of sport across the UK. The Relay will last for 70 days and the Flame will carry with it the values and spirit of the Olympic Games across the UK.

"A huge thank you to all those who have been involved in the planning process who have helped the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay come to life. Everyone has played their part in giving thousands of inspirational people and hundreds of communities their moment to shine."

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Torchbearers on Saturday included:

George Phillips, 87, from Penzance and carrying the Flame in Plymouth. Nominated through the Samsung campaign, World War 2 veteran George, spent 30 years as Honorary Consul in the South West for French, Flemish and Spanish foreign nationals. He supported individuals and their families during times of crisis. He also carried the Flame in the 1948 Torch Relay and spent 40 years as an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and latterly Probus where he was involved in hundreds of fundraising activities for local good causes.

Emma Jones, 29, is from Newquay and will be carrying the Flame in Newquay. She has been a medic in the Royal Navy for the last 10 years, working for search and rescue teams.

Eric Smith, 76, from Surrey, was nominated through the LOCOG campaign and is carrying the Flame at Land’s End. In 1962 Eric won the George Medal as a helicopter rescue winchman on the wreck of the Jeanne Gougy at Land’s End.

Samantha Woon, 21, from Cornwall, is carrying the Flame in Penzance. Samantha has used her difficulties with her own sight to fundraise for blind people.

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Former athlete Roger Black told Pirate FM, "It's quite a privilege. It could have arrived anywhere but it arrived in Cornwall. The most significant thing about the torch is the momentum that builds now it is in this country. A lot of people feel it is a London games but I think, with the torch, it is a British games."

During the afternoon the torch visited the Eden Project and travelled in a balloon through the iconic biomes. It also made one special day even more special. Trevor White and Jamie Marie Dove booked their wedding at Eden three years ago, before the route of the torch had even been decided.

Trevor told Pirate FM, "The way this has all panned out, it has gone from a small wedding with just a few family and friends. The venue was always fantastic but having this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's never going to happen again."

The happy couple also meet adventurer Ben Fogle, who helped pilot the helium balloon in front of the world's media. He called the experience of carrying the flame fifty metres up into the rainforest biome "unforgettable."

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5:24pm 19th May 2012

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