With the Olympics now underway I’ve had time to process and upload a gallery of images taken during the last day of the Olympic torch relay. For those outside the UK, the organisers of London 2012 created a 700 or so mile long relay for the Olympic flame. The culmination of which was down the River Thames.

As you will know from previous posts I do some work for the Port of London Authority. It asked me to join one of their launches as they control the river from Teddington out to the North Sea. They wanted a photographic record of their work around the torch relay and the event itself.

The torch gets up early and the 27th July 2012 as no different. A start of around 7.30am at Hampton Court Palace was the schedule. Luckily they were 20 minutes late which gave us enough time to get to Teddington Lock, where the PLA takes charge of the River.

The Gloriana, the Royal rowing barge that lead the Queen’s 60th Jubilee River Pageant was the vessel of choice to carry the Olympic flame. It was lit in a shiny metal cauldron bearing the 2012 logo. Although along the route  the flame was transferred to several torch bearers to hold.

At Teddington, the Gloriana was preceded by two passenger boats loaded with onlookers and well wishes and then followed by a flotilla of small rowing boats. After the lock the fairy narrow river was alive with small boats. It was chaos for a few minutes as everyone started to follow the horn tooting Gloriana. Soon though the field couldn’t keep up with the 18 oars of Gloriana and they started to slip behind.

For a while, the Gloriana just had its close protection team of police, PLA vessels and press boats for company on the river, but the banks were still lined with well wishes shouting, waving, clapping and cheering. I was working, but still felt a sense of being a small part of something quite special.

At Richmond, the whole waterfront was rammed with onlookers and we were joined by more rowers and the procession became a flotilla once more. As we passed under each bridge the Gloriana had to pull down its stern flag, but it also used the acoustics to amplify its raucous horn. It was a sound heard for miles I would imagine.

While photographing a torch bearer named Charlotte Fone, I saw she walked passed an elderly man rowing the Gloriana. This turned out to be  Paul Bircher, now 83, who won a silver medal in the rowing events in the last London games in 1948. In fact many of the Gloriana Rowers were Olympic medallists.

At Putney, one of rowing’s spiritual homes in the UK, there was a 21 oar salute and even more crowds there to cheer and wave the flame on. Once passed Battersea, the flotilla entered London city itself and rowed passed some globally iconic buildings such at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, plus County Hall, The London Eye and on towards Tower Bridge.

It stopped short there though and put a stop in at the floating rings next to HMS Belfast and here torch bearer Amber Charles held the flame and waved at the crowds on the South Bank. Major Boris Johnson was being interviewed on the back of HMS Belfast at the time, but I of course had no idea what he said.

After a few minutes the flame was hidden and the Gloriana slipped under Tower Bridge and around to Butlers Wharf where the flame was offloaded and put in safe keeping to wait for the opening ceremony.

As darkness engulfed London and the opening ceremony kicked off several miles to the east, Tower Bridge exploded in a cacophony of light and sound as fireworks announced the flame was about to leave. The Gloriana was put to bed by this stage and so it was left to David Beckham and an extremely fast speed boat to carry the flame. The lit up boat shot out from under Tower Bridge and sped away to the crowds cheering in the Olympic stadium.

So that was it, the end to a special day and the start of an event that I doubt I’ll see again in my lifetime. An Olympic Games in the UK.

I have a full sized gallery on my website at: www.gavinparsons.co.uk/pages/torch.html

 

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