An estimated 30,000 people from across the District came to Rayleigh to watch the Olympic Torch when it visited on Friday July 6th.
The crowds were entertained by a number of local groups and street entertainers who created a carnival atmosphere as the Rayleigh prepared to greet the iconic symbol of sporting excellence which has been on an epic journey around the country for the last 48 days.
From street entertainers such as The Adjudicators who got the crowds going with fun time trials and award ceremonies to free children’s art workshops making Olympic Torches and lots more besides, there was plenty to get the crowd going before the Torch Relay started.
At 10.20am the Torch started its journey on London Road, before travelling up Crown Hill and onto Rayleigh High Street carried by the Torchbearers who had all earned the honour of carrying the Flame because they have been such inspirational members of the community.
It was greeted by thousands of visitors who had come to cheer the Torchbearers on their way.
It was also a very special day for two of the guests at the Torch Relay event, former Olympians, Ann Pearce (nee Long), who represented Great Britain in diving at the Olympics in Helsinki 1952, Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960, was joined by Christina Frost (nee Persighetti) who represented Great Britain in the long jump in the Rome 1960 Games.
It was a double celebration for both of them as it was also their birthdays on the day!
Ann said: “It was such an incredible sight watching the Torchbearers as they proudly carried the Olympic flame through Rayleigh. I was very emotional, the whole day has brought back some very special memories from when I competed.”
Christina added: “It’s been an amazing day, I’ve had such a good time and it was an honour to watch so many of the local athletes of the future carrying the Torch. It’s been a really memorable birthday.”
The Chairman of Rochford District Council, Councillor Mrs Joan Mockford, said: “It’s a very special occasion seeing such an iconic symbol come through the District, and it’s been a privilege for us to host it.
Everything, from the street entertainers, the local dance groups such as Mushroom Theatre as well as the Torchbearers themselves have come together to make this a truly wonderful event.”
The Leader of Rochford District Council, Councillor Terry Cutmore, said: “What an amazing day, it was spectacular to see so many people lining the streets to watch this historic event and I think Rayleigh has really taken its moment to shine.
It’s been great to see so many people enjoying themselves and having a good time. I hope it acts as a curtain-raiser for a summer of success for all the athletes competing at the Olympics.”
Rochford Police Commander, Chief Inspector Ian Cummings, also thanked everyone who came to watch the Torch in Rayleigh. He said: “My officers have come to me this morning and said they had a lump in their throat of real emotion, not only at being here for this once-in-a-lifetime event, but because it was such a great family and community occasion.
Young people, children, older people and families together all had a good time that I think they will remember. Everyone behaved very well, and I believe we have done our District and our town proud.
Behaviour was first class by everyone, police had no issues to deal with at all. Sometimes if you’re stuck in a traffic queue or squashed in the crowd, people can become impatient, but it didn’t happen here in Rayleigh. Police officers, including Special Constables and Police Community Support Officers have had a great day out too, able to chat and share a laugh with people in the crowd. Brilliant, thank you everyone!”
You can see photos from our District’s big day on our Flickr site by clicking here!