OLYMPIC TORCH: Flame brings miles of fantastic smiles to South Yorkshire

Ryan Wilkinson carrying the Olympic Flame
Ryan Wilkinson carrying the Olympic Flame
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THOUSANDS of people lined the streets of Rotherham waving union flags, cheering, and clapping to mark the town’s moment to shine.

Hundreds of schoolchildren were given the morning off lessons so they could watch the Olympic flame as it wound its way through the town centre on its way to Dalton via Clifton Park and Thrybergh after it left the Magna Centre.

The route through Rotherham town centre was cordoned off as an estimated 30,000 people cheered, clapped and screamed as torchbearer and Sheffield Hallam university sports officer, Colan Leung, carried the flame along Wellgate and down the hill past All Saints Church.

At WH Smith on the corner of College Street there was a torch ‘kiss’ before torchbearer Jill Newbolt, a 40-year-old teacher from Rotherham, carried the torch up to Clifton Park where hundreds more excited schoolchildren waited.

Brightly coloured Olympic bunting had been strung up around the church and hundreds of youngsters waved flags and banged together plastic batons as the torchbearer jogged past. Everyone in the crowd had got up early to secure a good viewing spot for the historic occasion.

At some points along the route, the crowds were three or four deep.

Shelia Wing, aged 77, from Rawmarsh, who was with her daughter Catherine, 45, and grandson Michael, 15, said: “It’s the atmosphere. It’s just amazing. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and there are hundreds of people here.

“With this and the Jubilee and the Olympics next, it will be a very special year - I feel very proud to be British.

“We got up at 6am to make sure we got here early - and we got a front row spot.”

Also in the crowd were Zoe Smith, her friend Sara Cresswell and their children Alfie Jones, five, his sister Lilymae, seven, and Millie Creswell, also five.

Speaking to The Star before the torch went past Lilymae, a pupil at Redscope Primary School in Kimberworth Park, said: “It’s great because we have got the morning off school and when the flag goes past we are going to wave and cheer.”

Before the torch convoy went past the excited crowd was kept entertained by street dancers and girls from the Gillian Banks Theatre School who were dressed in elaborate stage costumes and make-up.

Tina Cockrell, 24, who had brought along her children Tyler, six, Logan, five and Ethan, three, said: “They go to Monkwood Primary and they are learning about the Olympics and the torch so I wanted to bring them along.”

Little Tyler said: “We have been watching the football and next it’s the Olympics. Running is my favourite sport and I’d like to go to the Olympics one day.”

Joanne McManus, who took her children Mia, seven, and Millie, nine, to watch the torch, said: “We have been here since 8am. We are all looking forward to the Olympics and it’s great the torch has come to Rotherham.”

Susan Hudd and her friend Helen Moroz came along with their four grandchildren.

Susan said: “They have been very excited. We saw the crowds in Sheffield yesterday so we came in on the bus - the children have been given time off school especially to come and see the torch.”

Coun Roger Stone, leader of Rotherham Council, said: “People from across Rotherham have again shown what a fantastic community spirit there is here by turning out in their thousands.

“I was lucky enough to be able to join the people in Clifton Park and there was a fantastic atmosphere.

“The numbers there were similar to the crowds we see for the Rotherham Show every September.

“Even the weather held for us and the event has been a major success in showing Rotherham’s best qualities to a worldwide audience. We wish every other community well when they have their time with the Olympic torch.”