Suffolk: Nacton Royal Marine brings Olympic torch to London
IT was a sight to make Suffolk proud.
After years of preparation and months of build up, London’s Olympic moment finally arrived last night.
Royal Marine Commando Martyn Williams, from The Street in Nacton, carried the Olympic torch as he rappelled down from a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter into the Tower of London on the shore of the River Thames.
Mne Williams, who was wounded in an explosion during a tour of Afghanistan in December 2008 which killed a close friend and injured another, carried the flame in a lantern while descending 180ft.
The commando’s grand entrance plunged the symbol of the games into the city’s historic heart, bringing Olympic pageantry to the British capital that last held the event in 1948.
Crowds lined the city’s famed river banks to see the torch arrive, while Yeoman warders — the ceremonial Tower guards popularly known as Beefeaters — looked on from inside the landmark’s grounds.
Speaking before the event he said: “I’m actually really quite excited about it.”
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Mne Williams, a member of the Commando Helicopter Forces based in Yeovil, said he was told about the possibility of someone abseiling with the Olympic Flame.
“Our job in the Mobile Air Operations Team is to teach people to abseil from helicopters but we would have had to teach someone to do it and carry out safety checks on the day so it was easier for us to do the whole gig,” he added.
“I said I’d quite like to do it and my commanding officer was happy for me to do it in light of what happened to me in Afghanistan in 2008.”
Members of Mne Williams’ family – including his dad, Andrew, mum Jane, siblings Helen and Matthew – will be in London to watch him. Mr Williams told the East Anglian Daily Times: “It’s certainly a massive honour and Martyn is really excited.”
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “Now fully recovered and ready to redeploy to the region in 2013, Martyn has shown not only prolonged and commendable levels of determination, enthusiasm and commitment in terms of his recovery, but in continuing to develop the frontline skills – of which abseiling is a crucial one – which set him aside as an exceptional Royal Marine, embodying the true ethos of this elite service.”
After the abseil, Mne Williams passed the flame on to two torchbearers who carried it around the Tower of London to be welcomed by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman.
The flame remained at the Tower overnight. The torch relay finishes on July 27 when it will be taken from Hampton Court Palace to the Olympic stadium in time for the opening ceremony.