The torch is due to make its way down Highbury Station Road on July 26
Published: 22 June, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
THE Olympic flame is visiting some of the most renowned places in Britain on its 70-day journey through the UK. From Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland to today (Friday’s) journey down Blackpool promenade.
But it’s not all glamour. On July 26, day 69 of the relay, the torch will hit Islington, and part of the route is the narrow confines of Highbury Station Road where the thousands of spectators, Olympic runners, support vehicles and a police guard will be hard-pressed to squeeze through.
The lucky residents of the road, in Highbury, will just be able to look out of their windows from the comfort of their sofas for a ringside view.
“The kids will love it. We’re going to have to sort out a good spot by the window and cheer as it passes through,” said Clifford Thomas, 46, Malory Thacker, 27, added that the event will be “joyous”.
“I shouldn’t be as excited as I am, but I’ll probably record it on my mobile phone. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, isn’t it?” she said.
Some residents expressed concerns over the volume of people traffic the event might trigger, but Christina Patoni, 31, expressed the sentiments of most neighbours when she said: “We’ve spoken about it on the street. We’ve all been following where the torch is, and it will cause a few problems but only for a day, that’s all.
“It is worth it. We’re paying all this money anyway so we may as well see some of the benefits first hand for ourselves. Especially considering most Londoners won’t get tickets to see any of the events.”
Retired postman Rajinder Singh Sanghera, 67, said that while most people would be at work, it could brighten up an otherwise ordinary day.
“Most adults will have more on their minds than the torch, it will be a good distraction with all the gloom in the air. It will make people feel things are getting better, even if they’re slow to get better in reality,” he said.
Meanwhile, Islington musicians will have a rare opportunity to take part in the largest closing event for the London 2012 Festival on September 9, as performances will be held in Northampton Square in tune with hundreds of similar events across the country.
Leader of Islington Council, Cllr Catherine West, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the Olympic torch into the borough and hosting a day of celebrations that everyone can come along and get involved with for free.
“Islington’s celebrations aren’t limited to the July 26, either. Islington Council decided that we could manage with less bunting than some other boroughs, and instead we’ve invested the bunting money we were given by the GLA in a huge range of cultural and sporting events planned across the borough this summer for residents to enjoy.”
MORE than 200 Islington “community heroes” have won tickets to various Olympic and Paralympic events.
Among the lucky 209 who received tickets after being nominated by neighbours is Elizabeth Jones (pictured above), who founded the charity Talking News Islington.
Ms Jones – who won her tickets for helping the blind and visually impaired – attended the Olympics in 1948 when the Games were last in London. The so-called austerity Games had to make do with the old Wembley Stadium as the main venue as the nation couldn’t afford to build any new ones in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Back then Ms Jones, now 84, saw Fanny Blankers-Koen, known as the Flying Housewife, who won four of the nine women’s athletic events.
“The Olympics has changed hugely since then,” she said. “Back in 1948 there was no Olympic Park and Wembley’s track and field facilities were quite basic. It was more like going to a football match.”
Other ticket winners included Tim Smits, 33, who was in the news recently for defending two pensioners from abusive youths on a bus, and being stabbed twice for his trouble.
The tickets have been paid for by local businesses.