Published: July 8th 2012July 8th 2012
The Olympic Games were last held here in the UK in July 1948
, having been postponed since 1944 because of certain unpleasantness at the time. The main venue - for the Games, not the unpleasantness - was Wembley Stadium, within sight of which I'd been born only four years earlier. I don't remember the Games - but then neither do Germany and Japan, who weren't invited to participate; they'd had a hand in that same unpleasantness.
Now the Games are coming to London again
, starting later this month. To compensate us for not being able to buy tickets for any events worth seeing, a Torch Relay
carrying a bit of the Grecian flame has been doing the rounds of towns all over the country. Today, it was the turn of Welwyn Garden City
to welcome the runners and their torches.
As I now live here and am highly unlikely to ever see anything to do with the Olympics except on telly, I ventured into town to witness the flame passing our way.
The car parks were free of charge, roads had been closed to traffic, and the fountain in the town centre had been specially filled with water
from a nearby lake (despite rain almost every day for the past three months, we have a drought and a hosepipe ban so the fountain's usually off!).
At least half of the town's 45,000 or so residents had turned out to line the streets. Many of them had bought flags, inflatable plastic flames, whistles, imitation gold medals, and helium-filled balloons.
Dozens of food stalls selling dubious delicacies from India, China, Thailand and the Caribbean had been set up along one of the main streets. Nearby, Jack FM, one of our local radio stations, had set up a stage to broadcast music by a variety of performers, at least some of whom were worth listening to. Craft stalls and local organisations peddled their wares from other covered stalls. The cafés were overflowing and virtually all the town's shops were open for business.
As 1.30pm drew near, the pavements and open spaces along the route became packed with expectant crowds - children with Union Jacks painted on their faces, old ladies with Union Jack brollies, mums and dads with Union Jack flags and cameras at the ready.
Police officers ushered spectators off the road and back onto to
the sidewalks. Police cars and motorbikes with sirens sounding preceded official Torch Relay cars, sponsors' lorries and buses - CocoCola with free samples, Lloyds Bank with cheerleaders, Samsung with inflatable plastic thingies for waving.
The sun came out.
Then, whoosh, along came a man in a white jogging suit carrying a flaming torch.
Then, in an instant, it was gone.
The heavens opened.
We all got wet.
The torch continued on its way. Scroll down for more pictures!
There are more photos below