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Gazette reporter's verdict on Olympic Torch Relay
IT WAS Basingstoke’s moment to shine as the Olympic Torch Relay passed through the town.
Having lived in Basingstoke almost all my life, I felt an unexpected sense of pride watching the hundreds of people who had made an effort to come and support this historic event.
Crowds began lining the streets from 10am yesterday with children waving their flags, families setting up camp with picnic blankets and chairs, and excited school pupils congregating in groups.
Those lucky enough to actually live along the route in Winchester Road put up marquees in their garden, enjoying an early lunch or celebratory drink while soaking up the party atmosphere.
There was no nastiness or negativity – just happy people, coming together to celebrate a major event in their home town.
Passing others along the route, everyone was smiling and waving, or making a positive comment about the weather or atmosphere.
I selected a spot near Lister Road, keen to see a ‘kissing point’ where one torch lights another.
The crowds here were several people deep, with many having patiently waited for several hours at the front of the barriers to get a good view.
One man on a bike entertained everyone by cycling round the ring road on numerous occasions, causing the crowds to cheer as he passed by again and again.
Cars beeped their horns and there was a real sense of excitement and anticipation as we all waited for the big moment when the flame would pass by.
Finally, the road was closed and two police officers on bikes whipped the crowds up by putting on their sirens purposefully and motioning for everyone to cheer.
The convoy vehicles began to arrive with dancers bobbing away in open top busses, making sure everyone was in good spirits before the torch arrived.
People on loudspeakers got the crowds even more excited while music blasted from speakers, adding to the celebra-tory atmosphere.
When Basingstoke’s Margie Doherty stepped off the bus to take her place on the last leg of the relay, a roar erupted from the crowds.
She was treated like a celebrity as people fought to have their picture taken with her and the torch.
I asked her how she was feeling to which she replied “emotional” – and it was clear she was.
But the 81-year-old was also clearly enjoying her moment in the spotlight and the attention that came with it.
Finally, Ethan Bergman appeared in the distance, carrying the torch from the Winchester Road Roundabout, and everyone was ushered off the road.
There was a slight pause from the crowds as we all watched the flames touch, and witnessed this historic moment.
As Margie walked off into the distance, a wave of cheers spread along the road as she passed by.
It really was an occasion to celebrate – that our town, Basingstoke, was included in this major event, and that we could all be a part of it too.