Suffolk/Essex: Olympic torch route is revealed

TOWNS and villages across Suffolk and Essex are set to welcome the Olympic flame as it travels across the country to London for the start of the 2012 Games.

The Olympic torch route, officially announced this morning, will take in 16 towns and villages in Suffolk – including many along the coast – and four towns in Essex.

Torchbearers will carry the flame for 300m before passing it along the route, starting in Lowestoft on Thursday, July 5 and snaking its way through the region.

In Suffolk, the torch route should be no more than 30 minutes away from any location, taking in villages, towns and important local landmarks, including Southwold’s iconic beach huts.

The locations are among 1,000 through which the flame will be carried, as chosen by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

Suffolk’s sports chiefs and tourism champions hailed the torch’s arrival as a chance to be part of a cultural legacy as the relay moves through the county on its 70-day journey across 8,000 miles of the UK.

Kathy Gosling, the county council’s head of sport, culture, diversity, health and wellbeing, said: “I really hope that everyone sees just how special a moment we will get to experience next year.

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“As the torch passes through our large urban towns and our small rural villages, it will be an opportunity for people in Suffolk to come together and demonstrate to the world what a wonderful place our county is.

“I’m particularly thrilled that everyone in Suffolk lives within 30 minutes of the torch’s planned route – which is significantly better than the aspirations of the torch relay organisers.

“My message to everyone is to come and be part of this truly unique opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, sporty, arty or just curious. This is about Suffolk welcoming the flame and sharing the experience together.”

The torch is set to pass through Lowestoft, Wrentham, Reydon, Southwold, Kelsale, Saxmundham, Aldeburgh, Wickham Market, Ufford, Melton, Woodbridge, Felixstowe, Ipswich, Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.

The street-by-street detail of the route will be confirmed next year but local leaders are already looking ahead to greeting the torch.

Colin Meekings, who chairs the parish council in Ufford, one of the smallest communities on the route, said: “It’s a big surprise to be included but a very welcome one. It’s brilliant that the smaller villages will be incorporated.

“We’re hoping to link up with Wickham Market and Melton to organise something special to acknowledge the torch passing through.”

Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that so many communities in Suffolk Coastal will get to participate in this momentous occasion.

“This will be remembered for decades by different generations and we could not have asked for more.”

In Essex, the torch will visit Colchester, Hatfield Peverel, Heybridge and Maldon on Friday, July 6.

The following day the flame will stay in Essex, moving west to Saffron Walden, Newport and Stansted Mountfitchet.

Councillor Tina Dopson, who is responsible for the Olympics on Colchester Borough Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be hosting the flame. It will be an experience to remember for the whole of the borough of Colchester.

“We want to make the most of this opportunity and we are looking to involve schools, voluntary groups, clubs and businesses in the celebrations.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell said: “I think this is a further example of putting Colchester on the national and international map. It underlines the significance and importance of Britain’s oldest town.”

Councillor David Bebb, who represents Hatfield Peverel on Braintree District Council, said: “We are very excited that the flame will be coming through our village and we would encourage as many people as possible to support the event.

“Hopefully the pubs and restaurants will do some good business. This should be a real boost for a lot of people.”

Councillor Brenda Harker, who is responsible for the Olympics on Maldon District Council, said it was a “huge honour” for the flame to pass through Maldon and Heybridge.

“This is a really big deal for the town and we are absolutely thrilled,” she said.

The 70-day Olympic torch relay will start at Land’s End, Cornwall, on May 19.

Events will be planned all over the county to celebrate the Olympic flame being carried across the UK by 8,000 inspirational torchbearers, each with a story of personal achievement or contribution to the local community. Successful nominees will be contacted in December with a conditional offer and final torchbearer places will start to be confirmed from February onwards.

LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe added his support to the torch travelling through Suffolk, saying: “This is the UK’s moment to shine and I want to encourage people across Suffolk to start planning how they can be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and show their support for the inspirational torchbearers chosen to carry the Olympic flame as we count down to the start of the Olympic Games.”

On the final day of the torch relay, the flame will travel down the River Thames as it makes its way to the Olympic Stadium on July 27 for the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony, signifying the official start of London 2012.

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