Olympic Torch makes its way through Bath

I was swept along by a river of people as I carried the Olympic Torch



21:59 GMT, 22 May 2012

Runner 93 – aka Sportsmail’s Olympics Correspondent Jonathan McEvoy – sees the beautiful city of Bath fall in love with the Games as he carries the flame through the West Country.

Grin and bear it: McEvoy lopes through the streets of Bath

Grin and bear it: McEvoy lopes through the streets of Bath

The greatest inaccuracy relating to the coming Games appears to be contained in the reference books. There the boffins put the population of Bath at around 80,000.

At least travelling through the beautiful spa city yesterday brought to mind one of the greatest lines written in the Daily Mail, when Vincent Mulchrone reported the scene on the eve of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral. ‘Two rivers run though London tonight, and one of them is made of people,’ he reported.

Well, if Bath’s population is truly just 80,000 then every single one of them was out there close to the Avon, cheering and waving flags, as the Olympic torch relay called by.

They were young and recording the day on iPods and smartphones. They were old and leaning on walking sticks. They were babies carried in their mothers’ harnesses.

They were peering out of sash windows three storeys up. Some wore school uniforms, some were suited and booted, others simply clad in T-shirts and shorts.

A swathe of middle England was falling in love with the Olympics before our very eyes.

On the buses: Our man Jonathan arrives in Bath

On the buses: Our man Jonathan arrives in Bath


Wednesday – Day 5: Bristol-Cheltenham via Swindon and Stroud.

Celebrity bearer: Didier Drogba.

Jason Gardener, gold relay medallist from the Athens Olympics, is Bath born. And as the bus carrying him and the other torch carriers pulled out of Bath University, the campus was lined perhaps a dozen deep. I swear his eyes were moist. That is, at least, how it looked to me.

I was runner 93 on Day Four as the torch relay snakes its way across Britain on its journey to the Opening Ceremony on July 27. Runner 93 is also a cynic when the situation demands. I should also add that I was running as a guest of Coca-Cola. I can assure you my approval cannot be bought for anything so soft, or fizzy.

But having seen the flame lit in ancient Olympia and having flown over with the lanterns last week, I can only attest that this was the most special moment.

Streets ahead: Bath was full of spectators as the relay went by

Streets ahead: Bath was full of spectators as the relay went by

Here in Bath, warmed in mood by an unbroken blue sky, I was reminded of what Daley Thompson (if you will forgive the name-dropping) told me as we drove over here. I asked that most infectious of sports enthusiasts what it would mean to him if he were selected to light the Olympic cauldron in the Stadium. ‘You know what,’ he said, aware the identity of that person is as yet unknown and will remain a closely guarded secret. ‘It would be better than being made a Sir or a Lord. It would be the best thing in the world.’

That feeling would be understood by my fellow runners yesterday. They all had their achievements to commend them: James Eynon, the teenager I succeeded in the relay, helped save his school from closure. Kate Pocock (nee Allenby), to whom I handed the flame, took the bronze pentathlon medal in Sydney 12 years ago and is now a teacher in Bath. One man had lost 16 stone and runs marathons. A mother had beaten a brain tumour and dedicates herself to charity work in Africa.

Humbly, I can only claim to have got the torch my 300 metres without incident.