Flags signal 2012 countdown in region

FLAGS were raised across Suffolk and Essex yesterday as the region began its own countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

FLAGS were raised across Suffolk and Essex yesterday as the region began its own countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

In Ipswich, a flag was delivered by the Chinese community to Jeremy Pembroke, leader of Suffolk County Council.

Guests at the authority's Endeavour House headquarters were treated to a display by the Suffolk School of Samba and an extract from Romeo and Juliet performed by the Red Rose Chain theatre company.

And the enthusiasm of Olympic veteran Stan Cox, of Felixstowe, was also an inspiration to those present.

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Mr Cox, 91, proudly spoke about his experiences while running in the 1948 London and 1952 Helsinki games and a film featuring him was shown to the audience.

Now he hopes to take part in London by carrying the Olympic torch.

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''I was very proud to represent my country. In 2012 I want to take part in some way and carry the torch, even if it is only for 100 yards. I would be extremely proud,'' he said.

A film about Kevin Curtis, who won a Paralympic gold at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and a gold medal at the 1992 World Championships at Barcelona was also shown.

Other Suffolk Olympians and Paralympians also attended the event which launched a Lap of Honour project.

This will document Suffolk's heritage in the Games and will provide inspiration to the first recipients of the county council's SportsAid scholarships. They were presented with a Suffolk Rising to the Challenge gold medal - and now they would like to wear the real medals in London in 2012.

In Bury St Edmunds, the Olympic handover flag was raised at the West Suffolk Athletics Arena in Western Way.

The track is an approved Olympic training facility and listed on the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games' recommended locations for international teams to get ready for the 2012 event.

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said it would be working hard to promote the virtues of the facility in its bid to attract oversees teams to west Suffolk for their pre-Olympic training.

The Olympic flag was also raised in Mildenhall, where some of the nation's top amateur riders gathered for the Mildenhall Cycling Rally.

Celebrations were also held in Southwold and Lowestoft yesterday to mark the moment London became the official Olympic Games host city.

Olympic handover flags were raised at both Lowestoft and Southwold lifeguard stations to celebrate the occasion.

Meanwhile, a flag was raised at Clacton's leisure centre as the town celebrated the handover with a range of free activities.

Charges were waived at the centre itself along with Dovercourt Swimming Pool, Frinton and Walton Swimming Pool and Manningtree Sports Centre, all of which are run by Tendring District Council (TDC).

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