Olympic Relay 'an exciting, memorable experience'
July 18, 2012
It's official. The Olympic Games in London are a few steps closer to opening.
Dr. Steve Blair of the Arnold School of Public Health has completed his run with the Olympic Flame in Reading, England. Blair, who was part the relay on the morning of July 11, is one of 8,000 "Inspirational Torchbearers" selected to carry the Olympic Flame, which will light the official cauldron at the opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium on July 27.
One of the 120 Torchbearers who carried the flame on Day 54 of the Olympic Torch Relay, Blair described his participation as "an exciting and memorable experience."
The Olympic Flame was carried from Reading to Theale, Thatcham, Newbury, Basingstoke, Kings Worthy, Winchester, Andover, Ludgershall, Tidworth, Amesbury, The Winterbournes and Salisbury.
Even if you weren't awake at 4:20 a.m. on "this side of the pond" to watch Blair's run via live streaming on the Internet, you can catch it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sxeu-UAOCGI.
As if the Torch Relay weren't interesting enough, Blair, who is in England with his wife Jane, ran into fellow American, former President Bill Clinton, on Thursday during a visit to The Bear, an historical pub in Oxford, England, that was established in the 13th century.
Although their conversation naturally included politics, "we had a very nice chat about many important topics such as global warming, educational issues, sustainability, and childhood obesity," Blair said.
Blair represented the American College of Sports Medicine, for which he is a past president, at the Torch Relay. "I think I was given the opportunity to participate in the Torch Relay because of my research on physical activity and health. I am grateful that work in this area was recognized."
He said he was very impressed with the number of people who turned out in Reading to watch the Olympic Torch and was amazed by the number who wanted to have their photographs taken with him.
"There must have been thousands of people on the street over the 5-K course that was the route of the group of which I was a part. The crowd consisted of infants in arms to very elderly people in wheel chairs. There were many school groups, from elementary to high school students. Many of the kids had Olympic Torches they had made."
The Torchbearers each carried the Olympic Flame a distance of about 300 meters, but weren't left to their own devices on how to get to the site for their "run" or left there afterward.
"The staff was simply outstanding. We had a great briefing by Coca Cola staff the afternoon before we were to run. They continued to provide information and support. Each of us had a Coca Cola staff member leave the hotel with us and our guests and go the place where we were dropped off to join others," he said.
"The staff at the drop-off point gave excellent instructions, and one of them went with us on the bus. The buses followed the route and dropped each of us at the place where we would start our run."
A local police officer briefed the runners, and when the runner carrying the Olympic Flame approached the next person, each was accompanied by four police officers.
"They showed us how to place the torches, and they turned on the torch of the person receiving the 'kiss' (which is what they call the exchange) and turned off the torch of the person presenting the 'kiss'. After the flame on your torch was extinguished, we had a few seconds for people to pose with you (for photographs)," he said.
After that, the runner and staff person boarded the bus, and the torch was placed in a rack.
"I get to keep my torch, and it is currently being shipped home along with a stand," he said. "The support and control of the event were simply unbelievably high quality."
And for those who know Blair, he won't be away from work, even during his Olympic adventure. He will attend a July 17 news conference in London for the medical journal The Lancet, which is publishing a special issue on physical activity and health. Blair is a co-author on two of the papers in that issue.
He also will be in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 18 – 19, for the International Convention on Science Education and Medicine in Sport (ICSEMIS), one of the world's prestigious sports science conferences. Known as the Pre-Olympic Convention, the event, which has the theme "Sport … inspiring a learning legacy," is expected to attract 3,000 delegates from around the world.