Flame of hope as Olympic torch reaches Scotland

8th June 2012 at 01:00
Disadvantaged pupils raise the spirits in run-up to the London Games

The Olympic torch relay arrives in Scotland today, giving people of all ages and backgrounds a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the build-up to the games.

The torch will be in Scotland until Thursday, during which time more than 500 people, including many school pupils, will hold it aloft as it continues a marathon journey that started in Greece on 10 May.

The relay will head as far north as Shetland, out to the Western Isles, and pass through dozens of communities of all sizes, before heading toward London for the start of the games on 27 July.

The profiles of the youngest torch-bearers sum up the inclusiveness, inspiration and diversity that the games espouse.

Emma Baird, 16, a pupil at Glasgow's Bannerman High, will take the torch in her home city. In S1 she was diagnosed with upper femoral epiphysis, meaning her hip had dislocated from the socket ball; doctors said she would not play sport again. She returned to school in a wheelchair after surgery and continued to swim using only her arms, covering distances that most could not do with four active limbs.

In Shetland, the torch will be carried by Zoe Buchanan, 16, of Anderson High, who won five medals at the British Transplant Games in Belfast in 2011, 17 months after having a transplant operation in which her mother donated a kidney.

Abi O'Grady, who will be a torch-bearer in Grantown-on-Spey, Moray, has autism and epilepsy. Abi, 19, did not want to be bullied at school so she asked if she could learn a martial art. She competes with little hope of winning because her brain does not send signals straight away, but her nominator said she never gives up.

Talented sportsman Ciaran Mulligan, 15, has excelled at several sports, but also helps care for his younger brother, Niall, who has Down's syndrome. The Westhill Academy pupil will take the torch in his home city of Aberdeen.

Fellow Aberdonian Sam Watt, 19, is to carry the torch in nearby Banchory, Sam used to live in a children's home and had a premature daughter. Her nominator said Sam, who has studied to become a hairdresser and taken part in a dance leadership programme, was succeeding "despite the odds being stacked against her".

Kieran Rae Cole, 12, from Twechar in East Dunbartonshire, had refused to attend his local school for two years. But at Falkland House School in Fife he has "fully engaged in all aspects of school life". He will carry the flame through Dunfermline.

"Kieran deserves his moment to shine as somehow he has pushed beyond his personal best and truly deserves it," said his nominator.


Light of unity

A precise ritual for the lighting of the flame is followed at every games. It is lit from the sun's rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, among the ruins of the home of the Ancient Games.

After a short relay around Greece, the flame is handed over to the new host city at another ceremony in the Panathenaiko stadium in Athens.

The flame is delivered to the host country to be transferred from one torch-bearer to another, spreading a message of "peace, unity and friendship".

It ends its journey as the last torchbearer lights the cauldron at the opening ceremony. The flame remains lit until the closing ceremony.

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