Torched – The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The Olympic Torch Relay came to Cornwall for the day.

The Olympic flame arrived at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall from Athens on Friday 17 May, 2012 in four custom-made lanterns. It was carried off the plane by the United Kingdom’s Princess Anne (IOC Member and the president of the British Olympic Association) and then used to light a cauldron to mark the start of the Olympic Torch Relay by English football hero David Beckham.

It was held at Culdrose and then transported to Penn an Wlas, or in English Land’s End. At 7am on Saturday at the much photographed signpost at this most westerly point on the main island of Britain, the Torch Relay commenced. The relay is organised across the UK and Ireland by the London Organising Committee for the London Olympic Games 27 July-12 August 2012 and the Paralympic Games 29 August – 9 September 2012.

The relay has been a feature of the Olympic Games since London 1948 but has become a major public event in its own right in more recent olympiads.

Former Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie was first bearer carrying the torch, and then  transferred the flame to the second torchbearer Cornwall’s world class surfer Tassy Swallow before it left Penn an Wlas.

With no large local community the carnival atmosphere at the start on Land’s End did include Cornish performances was dominated by union flag waiving tourists and it was perhaps only the backdrop of the ocean and The Longships, a group of rocky islets just over a mile offshore, that gave Cornish people some bearings but had those watching TV around the world reaching for an atlas. Further along there were at least a few identifiers for non locals.

The Torch at Marazion:

The Good

Although most of the route the flame was carried locked away from sight in a vehicle, along the circuitous route across the Duchy (map below) thousands of locals, and visitors, flocked along the number of runner held sections.

The Torch relay route through the Duchy of Cornwall

This video footage on shows off the some of the obvious fun atmosphere in St Austell one of Cornwall’s largest centres, and one of the torch bearers:

Certainly it was a day for families and many children will remember an event like this for many a day.

On social media many people told of their day – “We are so excited in household it fantastic to be able to watch this advent in this oh so beautiful place CORNWALL!” said one, and  “Glad I made it back from Oz to be part of this in Falmouth!!!!!!!”, another.

Across the world people got to see, albeit often sanitised and heavily sponsored,  glimpses of Cornwall and the Cornish people. This was particularly thrilling for the tens of thousands of ex-pats and migrants missing their homeland.

Even over in Seattle USA, gushed “Thousands of cheering Britons lined the streets of towns and cities across Cornwall and Devon as the Olympic torch was carried over 136 miles from Land’s End to Plymouth Hoe on the first day of its 8,000-mile relay around the UK”.

Many, but by no means not all, the torch bearers were locals – sporting identities, community leaders, and ordinary Cornish people.

Reports of villages and towns enjoying special and/or traditional Cornish entertainment in a party atmosphere have come in and many people proudly displaying St Piran’s flag or wearing St Piran’s flag emblazoned shirts. Well done to all!

It must have been a special time for them and their families. Communities made a strong effort to be at their best.

Malcolm Bell, from Visit Cornwall, said “It was just amazing. The torch relay was kicked off to a great start, it showcased Cornwall and the people of Cornwall had a great day and celebration.”

Cornwall Council’s cabinet leader Alec Robertson said: “We said from the start that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase the very best we have to offer and  we certainly achieved our aim”.

The Bad

1. Residents of the World Heritage Mining core of Camborne and Redruth, and in most of North Cornwall, will be comforted to have heard that their areas, not included in the route, are not among ‘the very best we have to offer’.

2. It came to notice also that shortly before the Relay the management of the Land’s End complex had been busy with some alterations. The prominent frieze over the pillared entrance to the complex, a bilingual sign has announced: LAND’S END : PENN AN WLAS  (The Cornish language name, meaning roughly ‘Lands end’).

Together with a Cornish coat of arms, a St Piran’s flag and Union Flag, this has been a highlight viewing for overseas visitors particularly, aware of the Cornish heritage, at this otherwise busy, overdeveloped tourist destination.

The alterations removed the wording and emblems, or covered them what looks like slate cladding and a painted – ‘Land’s End’.

But it had not gone unnoticed:

Among other media outlets covering this odd development, ITV News covered the issue and among those interviewed was Jenefer Lowe from the government supported Cornwall Language Partnership (Maga Kernow) says move to get rid off dual language sign at Land’s End is disappointing and a step backwards.


Land’s End weren’t available for interview reportedly but issued a statement saying it had “nothing to do with the Olympic torch relay”. As one Cornishman noted, “The ITV news presenter put the lie to that quite beautifully by saying ‘I was there on Saturday and you could smell the fresh paint’!”

The complex’s statement however goes on to downgrade Cornish even more: “Land’s End is an international tourist attraction and we have a multi-cultural ethos. In keeping with that, we have tried to make the entrance as welcoming as possible to as many people as possible.  As visitors will see, our welcome in Cornish is now displayed prominently and proudly at the entrance alongside international languages such as German, Spanish and Italian”.

We are talking about the correct and indigenous name of the location here! People of Cornish heritage are apparently foreigners.

3. The three ‘Presenting Partners’ of the Olympic Torch Relay were also much evident, with vehicles emlazoned with logos and slogans travelling along with the Torch, and it is even reported that one defaced the UK’s Union Flag by handing them out with their logos on them.

The ugly

Along with the Torch relay of course the runners and the Torch and its support need security. Not the overblown, thuggish security provided by the men and women in  ‘subdued grey shirts with a flash of gold logo’ – the Met Police Torch Security Team. London Metropolitan Police assigned to escort the Torch across many nations, Counties, and communities in parts of the UK, Cornwall, and Ireland. Many well outside their cultural understanding, no matter how well trained. This sort of behaviour within the first km, and in the Duchy of Cornwall, was a very poor start. does not know of the health of the man assaulted and pushed into the hedge wall, but wishes him well.

2.  A member of the Kernow Branch of the Celtic League and a previous Branch Secretary has lodged a complaint of harassment with the Devon and Cornwall Police Constabulary prior to the Torch arrival, on 18th May.  It is understood that a formal complaint has been lodged with Devon and Cornwall Police for harassment. The assistant general secretary of the League, Tony Leamon, also reported that he knew of three other people that had been visited by the police recently in relation to the Olympic torch.

“It is disappointing that such bullying tactics are being employed. If people want to protest in a peaceful way they should be allowed to, as part  of the democratic process. It seems as though the Olympics has become less of a sporting contest and more of a corporate money making exercise sponsored by big business, with more security than a G8 Summit. Besides, not everyone is interested in or supports such an event taking place; the torch may reach London, but the event itself seems to have lost its way,” stated international General Secretary Rhisiart Tal-e-bot.
Enjoy the London Olympics everyone!

Compiled and loaded to by Editor, 22 May, 2012

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