London Olympic torch to light up Norfolk

Norfolk will be at the forefront of worldwide celebrations next year when the Olympic torch comes to the county in the build-up to the London 2012 Games.

The historic flame will have an overnight stop in Norwich on July 4 on its way to the opening ceremony.

It will form the centrepiece of an entertainment extravaganza in the city that evening before it heads south to Suffolk, arriving in Ipswich on July 5.

The exact route will not be known until later this year but to get to and from Norwich, the torch will have to pass through many Norfolk communities, giving people the chance to see the procession and feel part of the Games.

James Carswell, cabinet member for cultural services, communications and customer services at Norfolk County Council, said: “This really is fantastic news for Norfolk and follows a lot of hard work to ensure that the Olympic torch relay doesn’t pass us by.

“The torch will head through Norfolk with an overnight stop in Norwich, and everyone involved locally will be working hard with partner organisations to ensure that we can involve as many people and communities as possible in the excitement that this will bring to our county.

“Whilst the beauty of our varied landscape lends itself to providing a perfect backdrop for the torch relay, I feel our application stood out from the crowd because of our plans to tie the relay into other mass participation events that we are planning for 2012, and our already successful delivery of events such as the Tour of Britain, and projects that link in with the 2012 Games.”

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Norwich is one of 66 evening celebration locations across the UK confirmed by the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

The evening events will offer thousands of people the opportunity to come together and get involved in celebrations and share in the Olympic spirit.

As part of the events, LOCOG and its partners, Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung, will stage entertainment shows where a cauldron will be lit from the Olympic flame, marking the end of the day’s proceedings.

Lydia Smith, director of Norfolk Tourism, said: “The selection of Norwich as one of the locations to welcome the Olympic torch is excellent news. It will be a great opportunity for the city as it showcases its culture and heritage in the run- up to London 2012.

“As the flame will be travelling for 12 hours a day we can expect that it will also pass through towns, villages and close to visitor attractions in the wider county, providing a further boost to Norfolk’s rural tourism, and giving local residents the chance to get involved.”

Norfolk County Council worked with Norwich City Council and other parties to lodge a bid to get the torch brought to the county.

Some of the reasons given were that Norfolk boasts areas of sporting significance, including Carrow Road, the home of Norwich City Football Club, its coastline and Broads are areas of outstanding natural beauty and Norwich and towns such as King’s Lynn, Holt, Great Yarmouth and Thetford are rich in culture and history.

The Olympic flame will arrive in the UK from Greece on Friday, May 18, 2012 and the 70-day torch relay will start at Land’s End, Cornwall, on May 19. On leaving Land’s End, the Olympic flame is expected to travel an estimated 8,000 miles across the UK, giving thousands of communities and individuals their moment to shine as the Olympic flame comes to their doorstep.

The Olympic flame will arrive at the Olympic stadium on July 27 next year for the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony, signifying the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Sebastian Coe, chair of LOCOG, said: “We are thrilled that Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council have agreed to host the Olympic flame on its journey right across the UK.

“The Olympic flame will shine a light right across Norfolk, celebrating the culture and heritage of the area and showcasing the very best of the county. We have no doubt that the welcome Norfolk will provide will demonstrate how the spirit of the Olympic Games is reaching out across the UK and excitement builds as the start of the 2012 Games draws closer.”

The Olympic flame will be carried across the UK by 8,000 inspirational torchbearers. Once the detailed daily route is confirmed later this year, it is expected that 95pc of the population will be within a one-hour journey time of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

kate.scotter@archant.co.uk