The day the Olympic torch came to Midhurst

Gail Whattingham preparing to take the flame to Cowdray Golg Club
Gail Whattingham preparing to take the flame to Cowdray Golg Club

Hundreds of people lined the route of the torch relay through Midhurst, some arriving at their chosen viewing point more than an hour before the action was due to start.

Umbrellas were as much at the ready as Union flags but by now everyone is used to the rain so it had no effect on the carnival atmosphere.

The bells of the parish church rang out and motorists desperate not to be caught up in the impending road closures made their dash to escape.

The lengthy convoy accompanying the relay began to roll through the town more than ten minutes before the crowds in Petersfield Road – including children from Midhurst Primary School and First Friends pre-school – caught their first glimpse of the fabled Olympic flame.

Every vehicle received a loud cheer as it travelled through Rumbolds Hill and North Street, as did the police vehicles and motorcycle outriders, some of them responding with cheerful waves.

Among those waiting in Rumbolds Hill to watch the parade was Brian Rich, now 84 and wanting to make up for missing the 1948 London Olympics.

He explained: “A lot of my friends belonged to the South London Harriers and they reserved me tickets for the Games.

“But I was in the army and got called out on the Berlin Airlift so I never saw a thing!

“I am not going to miss this because I don’t expect I will live to see another London Olympics.”

In North Street, 14-year-old Rhys Watson, from Midhurst, was ready with one of the tambourines being distributed by Coca Cola, one of the Games’ sponsors.

“Seeing the Olympic torch is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said sports fan Rhys, who takes part in athletics and hockey.

He added: “I applied for tickets for the Games but I didn’t get any.