Sunderland and Durham spent £230,00 hosting the Olympic Torch

Micah Berger with the torch on Wearmouth Bridge.'Olympic Torch Relay2012, Sunderland, Saturday 16th June 2012.

Micah Berger with the torch on Wearmouth Bridge.'Olympic Torch Relay2012, Sunderland, Saturday 16th June 2012.

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OlYMPIC Torch celebrations in Sunderland and Durham cost taxpayers £231,416, it has been revealed.

Thousands lined the streets of Wearside and County Durham to watch the Olympic flame pass through on its way to the 2012 Games.

Sunderland spent £11,764 hosting the torch as it passed along the coast and through the city centre to a celebration event at Herrington Country Park.

Schools, community groups and sports teams in the city all hosted smaller events – including their own mock-up torch relays – as the city got into the Olympic spirit.

And councils have today defended the cost of celebrations after figures released on the first anniversary of the start of the relay show local authorities spent more than £6million hosting the torch.

On average, councils paid out just over £40,000 to host the flame, funding items such as security and street furniture, as well as road-closure notices and evening celebrations.

The Wearside celebrations came after Olympic organisers sparked outrage when Sunderland was missed off an initial list of towns and city’s hosting the torch – despite being the biggest city in the North East.

Sunderland City Council pressed organisers to ensure Wearside would still have a prominent place on the North East relay map.

Newcastle and Durham were chosen as over-night stop offs on the torch route.

Durham County Council spent £219,000 on hosting the torch, which included an evening celebration in Durham City with TV presenter Matt Baker, from Easington, lighting the ceremonial fire cauldron.

Durham cited its large area as the reason for the six-digit expenditure.

Terry Collins, corporate director for neighbourhood services, said: “Ours is a vast county and to fulfil Locog’s desire that every resident would be within a short drive of the torch, the money spent was necessary to ensure that everyone in County Durham could share in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The flame arrived in Cornwall on May 18 from Athens on a flight which counted former England football captain David Beckham among its passengers.

But it was Olympic sailing hero Ben Ainslie - who would go on to win a record-breaking fourth gold medal later in the Games - who was the first to run with the torch, when he left Land’s End among much fanfare and international media coverage the following morning.

Flick Rea, chairman of the Local Government Association’s culture, tourism and sport board, said councils wanted to make the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity memorable.

She said: “The torch relay was a huge logistical challenge.

“Without council efforts in managing thousands of road closures, recruiting a small army of volunteer marshals, setting up safety barriers and managing crowds, cleaning up after the cavalcade and handling a vast range of other issues, it simply wouldn’t have happened.

“The cost to each council could be affected by many things. Few, if any, meaningful conclusions can be drawn by comparing expenditure on an issue with so many variables.”

The flame arrived in Cornwall on May 18 from Athens on a flight which counted former England football captain David Beckham among its passengers.

But it was Olympic sailing hero Ben Ainslie - who would go on to win a record-breaking fourth gold medal later in the Games - who was the first to run with the torch, when he left Land’s End among much fanfare and international media coverage the following morning.

Newcastle City Council spent £127,500, with its celebrations including a zipwire stunt involving celebrity adventurer Bear Grylls.

How much North East councils spent:

Durham 219,652

Gateshead 21,227

Hartlepool 14,848

North Tyneside 6,017

Newcastle 127,500

South Tyneside 11,513

Sunderland 11,764