Keeping the Olympic Flame alive

Rowing had a special part to play in the Olympic Torch Relay last week. 

On Tuesday morning at Henley, Sir Steve Redgrave deserved another gold medal for rowing with one hand while carrying the Torch in the other. Then after a tour of Eton Dorney, where Sarah Winckless was there to hold the Torch, the Relay progressed to Reading where British Rowing Chairman Di Ellis was waiting.

A veteran of five Olympic Games, Di said afterwards, “The best way to describe it is how the marathon runner feels when they enter the Olympic Stadium with a sea of people. There was an incredible buzz of anticipation and cameras as far as the eye can see. What a mind-blowing experience with all the crowds along the route!

“I felt incredibly privileged, somewhat humble in hearing others’ stories and grateful to the British Olympic Association staff who had nominated me.”

But for Di it was not so much a ‘moment to shine’ but a ‘moment to share’. 

She said, “I hope to share it with the young people who can gain so much from the Olympic ideals. Sport can change lives and provide lifelong friendships.”

For Brian Armstrong, British Rowing International Manager from 1990 to 1996, being a Torchbearer was also particularly pleasurable thanks to the response of the cheering youngsters as he completed his leg in Norwich on 4 July.

“I’ve never been photographed so much. I couldn’t get back to join my family for being asked by parents to take pictures with them and their children. It was a very humbling experience but a great pleasure,” he explained. 

“I was invited into a junior school in Reading on Tuesday to a school assembly where I was able to answer questions from the children. They had just returned from watching the Torch outside their school that morning. The children were so excited. They all had the opportunity to handle the Torch and ask questions. I was there for five hours!”

Di too has been invited to share her Torchbearer experiences with schools in Surrey and Hampshire but she is also keeping one eye on Eton Dorney.  

“The Olympic Rowing Regatta will be the next part of an extraordinary, privileged and very special journey,” she said.