UNEP Honoured to Carry Olympic Flame En Route to London 2012 Opening Ceremony14 July 2012
Southampton (UNEP) – UNEP gave a hand over the weekend assisting the historic Olympic flame to make its journey around the United Kingdom as part of the preparations for the opening of the London 2012 summer games.
Nick Nuttall, UNEP's Spokesperson and acting Director of Communications, carried the torch on its leg in the southern port city of Southampton where enthusiastic, flag-waving crowds braved heavy downpours to cheer and wave the 'flame' and the around a dozen torchbearers on their way.
Many of the torchbearers chosen to carry the flame had taken up sports such as marathon running and cycling in order to raise money for local charities supporting victims and families in areas ranging from cancer to cot death.
UNEP's invitation came as a result of its work with the International Olympic Committee and host cities on 'greening' the games and strengthening environmental measures as part of the third pillar of Olympism.
"It was a truly magical day and one I will never forget," said Mr Nuttall, who along with all 8,000 torchbearers taking part across the country, wore the white top and trousers with gold and yellow trimming specially conceived by the London Olympics Organizing Committee and Adidas.
"To see the flame passing from torchbearer to torchbearer and the enthusiasm and genuine affection of the spectators towards the gold, latticed, torch itself and those privileged to carry it was indeed a moving experience-one felt the whole city was out to welcome and cheer the Olympic flame on its way," he said.
Mr Nuttall's leg on Saturday 14 July felt perhaps even more connected to ancient Greece than he had first imagined when invited to take part.
This is because half of his part of the torch relay involved running around the pitch of St Mary's football stadium-home of newly promoted Premier League team Southampton who on the day were playing a friendly competition against Arsenal and Belgium team Anderlecht.
"Football supporters can on occasions use quite fruity language and challenging gestures. But the Olympic flame and the torch did their magic. As I 'received' the flame from the preceding torchbearer, a crescendo rose around the stadium, cameras flashed and everyone on the terraces was waving back or showing the 'thumbs up' sign," said Mr Nuttall.
The torch relay ended in Southampton at Mayflower Park, an area of the city's historic docklands that recalls the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers from England to America on 15 August 1620 and which today serves as a backdrop to cruise liners.
UNEP's next involvement in the London 2012 Olympics is scheduled for 26 July when UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is scheduled to tour the completed environmental measures at the Olympic Park with Caroline Spellman, the UK Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (see press release).
The tour, which will focus on the low carbon stadium, the greening of supply chain, sustainable food supplies to spectators, biodiversity and flood defense improvements on the River Lea among other sustainability measures, is scheduled on the eve of the opening ceremony.