Monday, 7 November 2011

We know the route but who will be the 8000th and light the cauldron

People all over the place are talking about the Olympic torch coming to somewhere near them. I reckon it will come within 100m of this house as it moves from Bangor to Newtownards on 3 June. But the news is also speculating about who will be the final person to light the torch.

Here is a list of the cauldron lighters over recent Summer Games:

2008 Beijing Li Ning winner of 6 Olympic medals in Artistic Gymnastics, China's most successful Olympian
2004 Athens Nikolaos Kaklamanakis yachtsman gold medalist in 1996
2000 Sydney Cathy Freeman at the time the silver medalist in 400m from the previous games, but won gold in that games. Only lighter of cauldron to win gold in the same games.
1996 Atlanta Mohamed Ali boxer who in 1960 won Gold as Cassius Clay in the heavyweight division
1992 Barcelona Antonio Rebello archery who famously fired a lit arrow into the cauldron and is so far the only paralympian to have lit a cauldron
1988 Seoul Chung Sun-Man, Sohn Mi-Chung, and Kim Won-Tak the first two were children while the last took part in the marathon at that games

I've gone that far back to show there aren't really any rules as to who can lit the cauldron, except that it is usually someone involved in sport, although in Lillehammer's Winter games His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Haakon lit the cauldron. While he didn't compete both his father and grandfather had.

So who might have the privilege of lighting the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium on the 27th July. Here are my four favourite contenders and a little bit of a wildcard.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson  the paralympian first competed in Seoul in 1988 and by the time she retired in 2007 had won 16 Paralympic medals from 100 - 800 m in five games, eleven of them gold. As well as winning the London Marathon on 6 occasions. She would certainly be a popular choice with her connections to London through the marathon route that passes through the nearby Docklands.

Sir Steve Redgrave  holds the accolade as Britian's greatest Olympian with six medals, including five successive golds over five games from Los Angeles in 1984. Clearly in contention as an option for the final accolade well know throughout the world of sport for his exploits.

Sir Chris Hoy the cyclist will hope to be competing in the "Pringle" as the velodrome is known next door to the main stadium, to add to his five Olympic medals, 4 of them gold, 3 last time out. He has already cycled into the Sports Personality of the Year Awards show. So a ramp up to where he needs to light the torch is highly possibly.

Sir Roger Bannister is one of the names associated with an historic moment, he was the first man to run under 4 minutes for the mile. He has also a loose association to the 1948 London Games at which he was listed a possible but decided he wasn't ready for that stage at the time. He therefore took part in the 1952 games which had an unexpected semi-final included and he ended up only coming 4th in the final. But that spurred him on to be the first man to break that 4-minute barrier.

David Bond earlier this year
My final choice is a wild card and someone you will probably all ask who. So:

David Bond the sailor. Unlike Bannister he actually took part in the last London Games in 1948 and actually won gold in the swallow class along with Stewart Morris. He is the only surviving British Gold Medalist from those games and the surviving British Olympic Gold Medalist from the earliest games. He will be 90 by the time the Games start. The games may be looking to have a legacy that lasts from this games, but here is a man who marks the legacy of starting the games after WWII to keep the young people of the world coming together every four years to compete in sports. If he has the role of lighting the cauldron I would not be surprised, it would be an honour


  1. I'd love it to be Tanni Grey-Thompson, I think that would send out all sorts of good messages, as well as being a fantastic honour for an amazing athlete.

    The other names that came to my mind were Dame Kelly Holmes and - and, similar to Tanni, I think this could be a very good choice for a host of reasons - Dame Mary Peters.

  2. I hadn't forgotten Belfast's own Mary, but I think she will be one of those that end up carrying in the Olympic flag. I expect to see one at least from each of the home countries carrying out that duty. But yes she went from Athlete to sports administrator and along with Princess Anne has had a long connection with the British Olympic Association.

    Dame Kelly is another great call. I expect her to be one of the final torch relay carriers in the stadium itself.