The Olympic Torch came through Cheltenham on 23rd May, just a few days after it had arrived at Culdrose in Cornwall, before being transferred by helicopter to Land’s End before commencement of the relay. The relay itself is being conducted by 8000 runners, 115 each day, who each run 300m, carrying their own individual torch (some of which have already appeared on eBay at prices of up to £125,000). At the end of its parade through the Cheltenham streets it spent the night at the Racecourse before proceeding onwards and into Wales and Ireland.
We only found out about the date for the Cheltenham leg some time after we had booked seats for Roald Dahl’s award-winning ‘Matilda’ at The Cambridge Theatre in the West End, and so missed the event. The Olympic flame was carried into Cheltenham down the Bath Road, through Montpellier, across the end of St George’s Road, 250 yards from Hanover House B&B (www.hanoverhouse.org), then along the pedestrianised Promenade, before crossing the High Street and leaving town on the Evesham Road before stopping for the night at the Racecourse. At this location, all sorts of entertainments and events were planned to celebrate its stopover. I understand that in this ‘Royal Year’ Zara Phillips (a Cheltenham resident) was to be one of the torch bearers, although I’m not sure if she was to be riding or running?
The weather was idyllic, very sunny, warm and distinctly summery after the rain we’d recently experienced, just as Veronica and I experienced in London. We weren’t particularly sorry to miss the torch as it was literally a ‘fleeting’ event and we had a great day in a warm, sunny, bustling Covent Garden, lunching at Jamies’ Italian round the corner from The Cambridge, followed by a rivetting performance of Matilda, watching busking classical singers and musicians in the sunken wells of Covent Garden while supping iced ginger beer, then supper with daughter Charlotte at a favourite local restaurant of hers close by. The only down side was the uncomfortable 3 hour National Express coach ride back to Cheltenham, not departing Victoria until 11.30 pm and getting into the Royal Well at about 2.30am.
The next day we heard some snippets from those who’d observed the torch passing, but there were no glowing accounts and so we were quite happy with having missed it in the event, although it was itself paraded as one of the great diary events of this Olympic and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.