ON your marks, get set and... GO! The London Olympics might seem a long way away, but from tomorrow the spirit of the Games will be closer when the torch arrives. The pinnacle of its journey through the Lothians will be a glittering free party at Edinburgh Castle with fun, entertainment and music from talented local youngsters sharing the limelight with Scots chart act Emeli Sandé.
But the beating heart of the relay will be the white-and-gold-clad team of torchbearers, some running, some on wheels and each with an inspiring and deeply touching story to tell.
Torchbearers such as Ellie Stephenson, 14 years old and stepping in to carry the flame in place of her mum Lisa, who is poorly with a rare form of cancer. Wheelchair user Sally Hyder, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 28, the keen mountaineer refused to let being in a chair stop her from climbing. Likewise, quadruple amputee Jamie Andrew, left – who lost his limbs after suffering septic shock and frostbite in a climbing accident – both glowing examples of achievement.
Joining them will be men and women dedicated to coaching children and inspiring them to embark on a lifelong love of sport, and young people who every day make personal sacrifices to care for desperately ill loved ones.
The flame is due to arrive in Stenhouse Drive at 5.45pm tomorrow having made its way across the Forth Road Bridge and travelled into the city from Broxburn in West Lothian, where families were due to welcome it with a street party.
It will then follow a route through Chesser, Slateford and Bruntsfield to Holy Corner and site of the Eric Liddell Centre, where it will be greeted by Vangelis’s Chariots of Fire theme – a fitting tribute to the famous Olympian.
For Ellie – who is due to carry the torch from Tipperlinn Road and onto Bruntsfield Place and past Holy Corner – it will be an emotional experience. Mum Lisa, head of group sponsorship for Lloyds banking group, was busy playing a key position in highlighting the London Olympics and fulfilling a string of professional and community roles when she was diagnosed with an incurable and rare form of blood cancer, myeloma.
Lisa, 44, of Ravelston, who has raised more than £75,000 for Maggie’s Centre since her diagnosis, says: “Ellie is an inspiration, so I think it’s quite appropriate that she carries the torch for me.”
Lisa’s nine-year old son, Joe, is not going to be left out: “He is going to get to take the torch to school to show everyone,” she adds.
Every one of the torchbearers to carry the flame through West Lothian to Edinburgh, then beyond to Musselburgh, Dalkeith and Penicuik on Thursday, has their story to tell. And if any of them can embody the Olympic spirit, it must be Sally.
Learning she has multiple sclerosis at 28 was a blow to the keen climber, who then had to cope with youngest daughter Melissa’s severe autism. Life, though, was transformed when she was allocated assistance dog, Harmony, from charity Canine Partners.
With Harmony’s help, Sally rediscovered her love of the outdoors, taking her motorised wheelchair up Ben Nevis – the first person in an all-terrain wheelchair to make the climb without being carried.
She will carry the torch from 7.26am on Thursday, covering a downhill stretch of the Royal Mile from Canongate kirk to Horse’s Wynd.
“I’m very chuffed,” says Sally, 49, of Blackhall, who was nominated by Canine Partners. “It’s a lovely stretch of route and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Other torchbearers are proof that age is no barrier to achievement. At 17, Heather Corbett Mann has packed in a string of admirable achievements and displayed strength of character to put many older people to shame.
Adopted as a baby because of her birth mother’s schizophrenia, she has battled to highlight mental health problems and raised money for Support In Mind, a branch of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship.
Last year, the St George’s pupil ventured alone to Jamaica to do voluntary work at a children’s home. Soon, she will head to South Africa to spend a year looking after young abuse victims with psychological problems.
She will carry the torch on its first leg from Stenhouse Drive to Chesser Avenue, at 5.45pm tomorrow.
“It’s getting really exciting now,” says Heather, of Juniper Green, who was nominated by her grandmother. “I’m actually starting to get a bit nervous. I just hope I don’t trip up or set myself alight!”
Kidney transplant patient Lesley Forrest, below, from Newington, has the thrill of carrying the torch from the Mound up to Castlehill and the celebration stage. She received a kidney transplant in 1996 after renal failure left her on dialysis for a year. Since then she has competed in the British Transplant Games and helped organise the event when it came to Edinburgh in 2007.
“Without a donor I suspect I would not be here,” says Lesley, 55, a mum of three. “All my races and winning numerous medals are all really to demonstrate the benefits a transplant can make.”
Most torchbearers are from the Lothians. However, one has crossed the Atlantic. Los Angeles teacher Shannon Garrison, 38, was nominated by a colleague after sponsor Samsung held a contest to find exceptional teachers. She will carry the torch on Thursday as it leaves Edinburgh for Musselburgh.
More than 50 will carry the flame through Lothian. Among them is City of Edinburgh Schools Sports Academy Athlete of the Year Lizzie Arnot, 16. Footballer Lizzie, a pupil at Forrester High, captained the Scotland women’s u15 team against England and Germany and the Scottish Schools U15 team. She will carry the flame along Bread Street down the West Port on Thursday from 7.10am.
Taking over on Thursday at 7.48am will be fencer Lisa McKenzie, 23, right, whose father, Don, competed in the Seoul and Barcelona Olympics, and was a Commonwealth fencing champ.
The youngest torchbearer will be 12-year-old Kai Wong, below, from South Queensferry, who beat health problems to excel at rugby and football. Among the oldest is 76-year-old Diana Balfour, from Humbie, a fundraiser with St Columba’s Hospice.
They will be joined on the route by fitness instructor Sarah Munro, 30, from Bo’ness, who set up FitnessChicks exercise classes for women, football coach Derek Nelson, 52, who has spent years training girls’ football teams in Edinburgh, and Puja Ram, 31, who works for Scottish Widows and is a volunteer with the Carers Befriending Project.
• The streets along the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay, can be viewed in full at www.london2012.com/olympictorchrelay
• Find out who is running with the torch at www.london2012.com/torch-relay/torchbearers/
Route: Wednesday 13 June
16.28 The torch will be met by 400 primary seven pupils from across West Lothian and South Queensferry at a special event which is not open to the public.
17.21 Greendykes Road, Broxburn. It will then travel along East Main Street.
17:45 Edinburgh route begins. Stenhouse Drive onto Chesser Avenue.
17:52 Hutchison Road
17:54 Newmarket Road
17:55 Newmarket Road on to Asda Carpark
17:58 Arrive at Asda (Coca-Cola Sponsor Stop)
18:18 Chesser Avenue on to Slateford Road
18:20 Slateford Road passes Hutchison Crossway
18:27 Slateford Road passes Slateford Gait
18:29 Shandon Place
18:31 Gray’s Loan passes Spylaw Road
18:36 Colinton Road
18:37 Tipperlinn Road
18:41 Tipperlinn Road on to Bruntsfield Place Holy Corner.
18:45 Bruntsfield Place
18:50 Leven Street
18:54 Home Street Valleyfield Street
18:57 Lauriston Place
19:04 Forrest Road
19:06 Passes Chambers Street
19:09 Arrive at The Mound
19:10 The Mound Lloyds TSB Sponsor
19:15 Lloyds TSB Sponsor event
Following the event, torch bearer runs back up the Mound.
19:20 Arrive Castlehill Stage
Thursday 14th June
07:08 Torchbearer starts at Festival Square.
07:10 Bread Street
07:17 West Bow on to George IV Bridge
07:19 Bank of Scotland on to Royal Mile
07:23 Royal Mile passes North Bridge
07:25 Royal Mile passes Canongate Kirk
07:30 Scottish Parliament
07:35 Holyrood Road
07:46 St Leonards St
07:52 East Preston St
08:09 Holyrood Park. Switch to convoy.
08:15 Duddingston Road West
08:21 Passes Meadowfield Avenue then right on to A1 Milton Road
08:22 Passes Duddingston Avenue
08:27 Duddingston Gardens
08:31 Mountcastle Drive South - switch to convoy.
08:36 Musselburgh: Five torch bearer legs then convoy mode.
08:59 Dalkeith: Six torch bearer legs then convoy mode.
09:26 Lasswade: Two torchbearer legs then convoy mode.
10.04 Milton Bridge
STREETS OF FLAME
THE Olympic flame will head through West Lothian tomorrow afternoon.
First, it will first cross the Forth Road Bridge by convoy, heading for Hopetoun House. More than 500 schoolchildren will greet it there.
Among the torchbearers will be inspirational John Beaton, 19, who has overcome Aspergers to become a key figure in the Scout movement, a rugby referee and a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.
“I’m really excited,” he says. “I have followed the Olympics since I was a small child and have been excited about the Games coming to London since we won the bid in 2005.
“Being a torchbearer is a great honour.”
The vehicle convoy will head through Winchburgh just after 5pm, before changing to ‘torchbearer’ mode in Broxburn’s East Main Street.
Crowds will have gathered there from 3.45pm for a street party.
The torch will be carried along East Main Street by Brian Wilkie, 64, from Mayfield, a former professional middle distance runner and now a coach.
The Torch continues its journey on Thursday, through Musselburgh and on to Midlothian.
It leaves Musselburgh to the tune of 300 school pupils from three separate choirs.
Among the torchbearers are Ken Reid, 52, of North Berwick, who has been registered blind since 1990, and cardiology nurse Joanna MacLachlan, 29, of Prestonpans.
It will then make its way to Dalkeith, Lasswade and then Penicuik.