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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 June, 2004, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Torch burns bright under dull sky
By Claire Foy-Smith
BBC News Online

Rowers take the torch on board
The men's eight rowed the torch to Westminster Bridge
Leaden skies and spitting rain were the weather's welcome to the Olympic torch as it was relayed through London.

But the city gave a warmer greeting, with Londoners and tourists turning out for their "once in a lifetime" glance.

Organisers must have hoped for a day to showcase London ahead of the second stage of the city's bid to host the 2012 games.

It was not to be. But at least the brooding cloudy background made it easy for Olympic fans to pick out the flame.

Supporters gathered along the 30-mile relay route from Wimbledon to the Mall, one of more than 30 city tours planned ahead of the Athens Olympics.

And tempted by a free ticket offer, tens of thousands turned out for the concert in the Mall, which closed roads around Buckingham Palace.

The celebrations left many curious tourists and Londoners milling about under Admiralty Arch, as the concert blocked their city circuit.

Margaret and Sarah Johnson
Olympic fans followed the torch on its 30-mile route
Margaret and Sarah Johnson, from Peckham, south London, followed the torch in nearby Camberwell and caught up with it later at the Millennium Bridge.

"The atmosphere was lovely," said Margaret. "We were having a whale of a time."

"It's rained on and off and I got poked with an umbrella a couple of times.

"But we're hoping London gets the Olympics. It would be good for London, especially where they want to do it."

Sportspeople, celebrities, ordinary people and schoolchildren were among the 140 runners who took the torch through the city streets and across the Thames.

Brian Dubiel and Brandy Guidry
Tourists and Londoners turned out
It also travelled by London bus, black cab, with wheelchair athletes and on the river, rowed by the British Sydney Olympic men's eight.

At Embankment Pier, a crowd gathered on the footbridge for the best view of the relay handover, from runner to the crew's cox.

American tourists Brandy Guidry, 23, from Washington DC and Brian Dubiel, 20, from Conneticut, had abandoned the "too crowded" concert to see the "real draw" - the torch.

"There's really a lot of sport going on at the moment," said Brandy.

"But the Olympics impacts the whole world and everyone comes together. With this, it doesn't matter who wins."

Despite hailing from a country with a rival bid, both supported the idea of a 2012 games hosted in London.

Andy Wright
Olympic achievement inspired some
"It's so diverse," said Brian. "You have so many races, cultures and creeds here, London would do a great job."

Andy Wright, 28, from Brixton, was influenced by father Pat Wright, a rower in the 1968 Olympics, when he chose his vantage point.

"There's something truly special about the Olympics," he said.

The rain had affected the crowd's turnout, he admitted, but had not deterred him.

"I've got beer and a hat if it really rains," he said.

Deepa and Chanaka Dealwis
Many said it was a 'once in a lifetime' event
When the runner bearing the Olympic torch up the Embankment appeared, the crowd thickened. A cheer went up as flames were exchanged.

As the crew pulled away towards Westminster, carrying the torch on one of its last relay stages, Deepa Dealwis, 34, from Colliers Wood, told BBC News Online: "I was really touched to see it.

"It last came here in 1948 so its a very special event. I don't know if I will see it again in my lifetime."




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