Olympic Torch arrives in Sunderland

Mia Rathband, the 13-year-old daughter of hero PC David Rathband, hands over the torch flame after running blindfolded through the streets of Whitburn, South Tyneside, as part of the Olympic Torch relay this morning.
Mia Rathband, the 13-year-old daughter of hero PC David Rathband, hands over the torch flame after running blindfolded through the streets of Whitburn, South Tyneside, as part of the Olympic Torch relay this morning.
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TODAY is Sunderland’s moment to shine.

The Olympic Flame entered the city, to be welcomed by huge crowds along the route.

The iconic torch left Gateshead early this morning to embark on today’s 99-mile route, and was carried into Whitburn shortly after 8.45am.

After being taken through Sunderland Aquatic Centre by Olympian Steve Cram, the relay was due to make its way to the city centre, crossing Wearmouth Bridge at about 9.50am.

As many as 50,000 people were expected to line the streets to catch a glimpse of the metre-high golden torch along Fawcett Street, Burdon Road and Chester Road towards Herrington Country Park, where it was to make its final stop before leaving around lunchtime.

Council bosses hope a further 20,000 people will head to the park to enjoy a schedule packed with special events to mark the historic day, including live bands, a food festival and fireworks.

In total, 21 people were to perform torchbearing duties during the two hours the torch spends on Wearside before heading to Durham, where it will stop for the night.

Crowds began to gather in Whitburn early this morning, determined to enjoy the event in spite of the threat of bad weather.

Gloria Laidler, 71, from Boldon Colliery, said: “I should imagine it will be a great day.

“I am not worried about the weather because I have got plenty of coats on.”

Daughter Susanne, 45, added: “It is about seeing a part of history. And if you relied on the weather, you would never do anything.”

Charlotte Allison, 41, had brought about 20 members of the Second Boldon Brownies down to the seafront to see the torch pass. The girls had made their own torches in preparation.

“I brought them out because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Charlotte. “Although these girls are so young, maybe it won’t be.”

Twenty-six-year-old Michelle Callaghan had travelled from her home in South Shields and was looking forward to the torch handover.

“You are never going to see it again – it is once-in-a-lifetime, coming right to where you live,” she said.

Among those carrying the torch yesterday was Sunderland schoolboy James Mavin, on its route through Whitley Bay.

James and friend Michael Purvis were hailed as heroes last year after performing emergency resuscitation on a man who collapsed in the street and was struggling to breathe.

The pair were on the bus heading home from school when they spotted the man lying in the street.

The St John Ambulance cadets asked the driver to stop, then carried out lifesaving cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived.

Twitter: @sunechomark

l Follow the Olympic Flame fun and progress today via Twitter, with #sunderlandtorch.

l Send in your Olympic Torch celebration pictures to echo.news@northeast-press.co.uk