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30,000 welcome Olympic Torch to city
They came in their thousands to get a fleeting glimpse of the Olympic Flame as it arrived in Bradford on its mammoth 8,000-mile journey across the UK.
Bradford Council has estimated 30,000 spectators greeted the Torch Relay as it passed through the city.
Voluntary worker Thomas Stokes, 20, carried the 2012 torch into City Park and performed the hand-over to star swimmer Jamie Brown as their proud families and crowds of spectators lined the streets to cheer them on.
Jamie, a member of City of Bradford Swimming Club, took up his leg of the torch relay from the city centre in memory of his grandad, Tom Brown, who died of cancer in May. The 18-year-old described his selection as one of the UK’s 8,000 torch bearers as “unbelievable.”
His grandma Eva Brown, of Allerton, said she thought she would “burst with pride” at watching her grandson carrying the torch.
Mrs Brown, 64, of Ayresome Oval, said: “His grandad would have been over the moon with him.
“We are all really really proud. His grandad had wanted to come, but it was not to be.”
Thomas, who had dedicated himself to voluntary work since the age of 12, was nominated by his colleagues at the One In a Million charity, based at Bradford City Football Club, which helps children in deprived areas.
Edwin Mclean, of East Bierley, Bradford, had front-row spot only yards from the flame hand-over. He had brought his nine-year-old son Isaac, who he will be taking to watch sprint relays at the London games in August.
Mr Mclean described yesterday’s events as “fantastic.”
“It’s great to see the people of Bradford coming out to support it. It shows that the Olympics are not just a London thing, it is national, for everyone to celebrate.”
Sarah Gospel, was watching with husband Rob and daughters Antonia, 11 and Natasha, 16.
Mrs Gospel said: “We had a great view of the torch – it all happened right in front of us – and it has been excellent. We live in Dewsbury but we wanted to come to Bradford to see it with all the family.”
There were also huge crowds in Lister Park, Manningham, where there were sports-themed celebration events before the torch relay arrived.
Among the torch bearers was 37-year-old Khalil Hussain, who has worked all his life to promote community cohesion in Manningham.
Hundreds of people were chanting his nickname “Jerry” when he brought the flame to the park.
Mr Hussain, who works at an inclusion officer at Springwood Community Primary School, said: “It was unbelievable and right up there as one of my best days ever. I am humbled by the support I have received from the community in Bradford. There have been so many people of different backgrounds coming together. It is what the Olympics is all about.”
In Centenary Square, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Dale Smith, proudly led more than a thousand children who attend schools across the district – and 200 brass band members – in a celebration parade.
Youngsters waving Union flags, home-made Olympic torches and banners of their individual schools were led on the parade in City Park by the Lord Mayor, Yorkshire band leaders and a colourfully-dressed MC.
Pupils at St William’s Catholic Primary School were involved in the parade, which snaked around City Park before ending at the steps of City Hall.
Head teacher Claire Gardner said: “We have 32 children who have all come with their parents, so it has been a lovely atmosphere and a great experience for them.”
The Lord Mayor said: “The children have been really enthusiastic about seeing the torch and we were blessed by the sunshine. Everybody has really enjoyed themselves.”
Bradford Council chief executive, Tony Reeves, who will be a torch bearer in Scunthorpe tomorrow, said: “This just shows how much the Olympics is capturing the public’s imagination – the torch relay in particular.
“It is fantastic to see young people being inspired and fantastic for Bradford.”