Proud day as Sheffield lit up by torch relay

Mark Rainbow, aged 33, carries the torch on Ecclesall Road.
Mark Rainbow, aged 33, carries the torch on Ecclesall Road.
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IT was the day when all agreed Sheffielders did themselves proud.

Some said they had never seen the like of it before as tens of thousands of people lined the streets, hoping for a glimpse of the Olympic torch as it made its historic visit to the city.

Torchbearers of all ages and backgrounds were cheered on every step of the way by enthusiastic well-wishers who assembled from the edge of Sheffield, in Chapeltown, up to the city centre where an immense crowd was drawn to Barker’s Pool for an evening celebration.

The welcome sunny weather also played its part too on Monday, meaning any fears of the momentous day being a washout were banished.

Organisers had planned for huge numbers, but there still seemed to be surprise at the impressive turnout, as huge queues of people eager to be photographed with replica torches snaked along Fargate.

Typical of the good spirits was a comment from Verity Wragg, of Fulwood, who brought along most of her family to see the flame in Barker’s Pool.

“I’ve never seen the Olympic flame before and I doubt I will ever see it again, so it is really great to be here,” said Verity, aged 32.

“It’s a fantastic atmosphere.”

The torch left the city on Tuesday after being carried around the track at the Don Valley Stadium.

Meanwhile, Ecclesall Road saw some of the most remarkable scenes. With the road closed to traffic, unprecedented numbers of onlookers were free to gather in the street, wave flags and applaud as the torchbearers passed by.

Spectators also watched from the roofs of cafes and restaurants, where summer refreshments were the order of the day.

The atmosphere was ‘unbelievable’ according to Suman Gurung, 18, who carried the torch on Ecclesall Road.

“It’s been a real honour,” said the Doncaster student and Red Cross volunteer.

One of the most touching sights was dedicated fundraiser John Burkhill, 73, finally getting his torchbearing moment in Chapeltown.

John, from Richmond, has raised thousands for Macmillan Cancer Relief, and is well-known for trekking around Sheffield wearing a green fright wig and pushing a pram.

“I was feeling very humble when I was carrying it,” he said.

“The people of Sheffield voted for me to carry that torch so I carried it on behalf of everyone.”

At Sheffield Children’s Hospital, youngsters welcomed the flame with a special street party – and one of the guests of honour was Hallam MP Nick Clegg.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the torch relay ‘fired the starting gun’ for Sheffield’s Olympic celebrations.

And over in Hillsborough Park, stalls, rides and music kept the hordes entertained. According to some locals, the crowd was the biggest the community had seen for many years.

Marilynn Hoyland, 66, who lives nearby, said: “People just don’t get together like this any more so it’s marvellous to see everyone all here for the same purpose.”

Teenager Carys Hall was tasked with the daunting responsibility of lighting a giant cauldron on the main stage in Barker’s Pool, which illuminated the evening sky. The 19-year-old, from Gleadless, said carrying the torch was ‘incredible’.

Barbara Taylor, 75, from Stannington, called the events ‘incredible’ – summing up a day which will live long in Sheffield’s memory.