50,000 spectators line Edinburgh’s streets to see Olympic torch convoy

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THE Olympic torch embarked on its journey out of Scotland beneath blue skies this morning as it was carried through the Old Town, following last night’s spectacular celebrations at Edinburgh Castle.

The torch procession left Festival Square just after 7am, as tourists and families mingled with commuters outside the Scottish Parliament to see children’s sports coach Sophie Hanson, 29, receive the flame: “I’m on top of the world, I’m holding back the tears,” she said, as the procession approached.

The torch convoy passes over George IV bridge. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The torch convoy passes over George IV bridge. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

She took the flame from Sally Hyder, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who has used a wheelchair for nine years but was helped to walk past the Parliament with the flame, an experience she described as “awesome”.

Last night, a sea of flags and grinning faces greeted Olympic torch bearers on their relay into the city, with around 50,000 spectators lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the symbolic flame.

Huge crowds gathered at key vantage points, with families cheering from the windows of their homes as the Olympic cavalcade crawled past en route to a finale at Edinburgh Castle.

Among the Capital’s torchbearers yesterday was Jamie Andrew, 42, a quadruple amputee who lost his limbs after suffering septic shock and frostbite in a climbing accident, and Ellie Stephenson, 14, who carried the flame in place of her mum Lisa, who has cancer.

The torch is processed through Edinburgh. Picture: Alex Hewitt

The torch is processed through Edinburgh. Picture: Alex Hewitt

A stop-off point at Asda Chesser saw some clambering atop post boxes for a better view while Slateford railway bridge was thronged with those seeking a panoramic perspective.

Australian John Holohan, 35, said watching the Olympic torch go by was the “chance of a lifetime” and, for him, an emotional reminder of the Sydney Games 12 years ago.

“The buzz around here is just fantastic and gives a flavour of everything the Olympics is supposed to be about,” he said.

Four young BMX riders, who joined the back of the Olympic procession at Chesser, won favour with many in the crowd and grew into a 20-strong fleet of cyclists by the time the march reached the Royal Mile.

The Castle Esplanade was by far the most concentrated spectator zone, with each side of the historic site eight rows deep with people.

Edinburgh native Lesley Forrest. 55, who received a kidney transplant in 1996 and a year later started competing in the British Transplant Games as part of the Scottish team, ran the last few metres into the Castle to a wall of cheers before lighting the celebration cauldron with her torch.