Olympic torch path branded ‘disappointing’

county times nov 10
county times nov 10

DREAMS of the historic Olympic relay taking place in and around the Horsham district have been crushed this week.

The golden torch will travel through more than 1,000 cities, towns and villages across the UK, but entirely miss our district.

London Games organisers Locog have circled the route around Horsham and its neighbouring community, making the nearest viewing points at Crawley, Arundel, Dorking and Petworth.

This week, local sports clubs, as well as pupils at Tanbridge House School in Horsham have expressed ‘disappointment’ that the 70-day relay from May 19 to July 27 in 2012 will skip a town with such a ‘rich sporting history’.

Meanwhile, disgruntled Olympic fans have taken to social media in a bid to voice their views on the Horsham area being snubbed by the Olympic event.

John Lines, chief executive of Horsham Football Club, said whilst he understands the ‘logisitical problems’ in planning the relay ‘from Horsham FC’s point of view, it’s a massive disappointment’.

The club had nominated their mascot Howie the Hornet to represent Horsham in the historic event.

Paul Harding, chairman of Horsham Rugby Club, told the County Times: “This is a massive, massive event, and we’re being told by the government it’s not just about London, we’re about 40 miles away and I don’t feel particularly involved.

“It is a great pity.

“When we had the Rugby World Cup here we were quite heavily involved and I’m sure the whole of the sporting community within Horsham district would have loved the opportunity to support the idea and be part of the Olympics.”

He added: “The knock on affect in Horsham would have been phenomenal. It’s like all sporting events that make the headlines - there is a great amount of people wanting to get involved with the sport.”

Organisers say the torch will come within ten miles of 95 per cent of the population. It will go through a total of 1,018 places and every county in England - but not the Horsham district.

“Obviously it’s disappointing,” said Michael Carrington, president of Sussex County Athletics and the 86-year-old Horsham Blue Star Harriers.

“In a sense I thought that the best route to take would have been through a town with such active athletics clubs.

“There’s no doubt that Horsham’s position in the county is equally accessible from the Chichester and Hastings area just like Crawley is.

“On the other hand, I have no doubt that if things are organised well in the Crawley area, Horsham’s involvement should not be neglected.”

Melanie Marlow, founder of Mel’s Milers - a Christ’s Hospital based running club - added: “This is very disappointing for any runner in the Horsham area.

“The torch should have definitely been planned to go through the district, given its rich history of running clubs such as the Blue Star Harriers and Horsham Joggers.”

Meanwhile, pupils at Tanbridge House School who were heavily involved with the visit of Olympic legend Lord Sebastian Coe earlier this year claim Horsham is ‘much nicer’ than Crawley, and should be part of the monumental tour.

Luke Rookwood, aged 15, organiser for the school’s Olympic events, said: “I think it’s a shame because so many people around this area are into sports and it has a great sporting atmosphere, especially as we’ve had Seb Coe to visit.”

Katy Ellis, aged 14, dancer at the opening ceremony of Lord Coe’s visit, added: “We all think Horsham is much nicer than Crawley. Our town got voted the second best place to live in the UK not that long ago.

“It would have been really nice to have the torch through Horsham but if it’s not possible I will just jump on a train to Crawley, which is only a few minutes away.”

Pete Marshallsay, assisstant headteacher, said: “It’s a pity because it would raise the profile of Horsham, but we as a school will still generate interest.

“The pupils have loved our Olympic and Paralympic events and really got behind it.

“We have more events in the planning stages for 2012 and we want to build the interest up into a crescendo.

“If you don’t come to us, we will go to them.”

Councillor Jonathan Chowen, cabinet cember for Arts, Heritage and Leisure at Horsham District Council, said: “The Horsham District is fortunate to have successfully secured Olympic teams to the district for training prior to the games starting. Horsham was also successful to receive a visit from Lord Sebastian Coe in June this year, who recognised the great local talent we have in the district.

“Whilst it’s disappointing not to have the Olympic torch in our district, clearly the torch could not go everywhere and local people should still be able to see it somewhere nearby.”

Meanwhile, Crawley MP Henry Smith says he is ‘delighted’ the Olympic torch will pass through the town on July 17.

Mr Smith said: “I think it’s fantastic that the Olympic torch will be visiting Crawley on July 17 next year. This is a great honour for the town and reflects our commitment to sport and community. “It gives everyone in Crawley the opportunity to experience the Olympic spirit and celebrate the great achievements of local torchbearers.

“I hope people will come down and show our town’s love of sport and pride in our community.”