THE battle for Sunderland’s only Olympian to carry the Games’ torch has reached the man at the helm of this year’s event.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, has penned a letter to Lord Seb Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, requesting that boxer Tony Jeffries be allowed to carry the Olympic flame when it passes through his home city.
Last week, a petition was launched by one of Tony’s fans to back his bid to be part of the historic occasion, which has been signed by hundreds of people.
Tony, 27, says he is prepared to fly back from his home in Los Angeles for the “great honour” but missed the deadline to apply for the role of torch bearer.
In her letter to Lord Coe, Mrs Hodgson writes: “One of our most prominent local athletes and former Olympian, Tony Jeffries, whose bronze medal for boxing in Beijing 2008 brought great pride to Sunderland as the city’s only Olympic medallist, has recently expressed his disappointment that he was not nominated to carry the torch as it passes through the area, and that the applications had closed by the time he realised this.”
She added: “While it is certainly nobody’s fault that this oversight has occurred, and while I would not want any of those who have already been selected to carry the torch through Sunderland to have that privilege taken away to accommodate Mr Jeffries, I would appreciate any assistance or ideas you can provide through your good offices to ensure that he can carry the torch at some point.”
Tony said he had been touched by the campaign which has been backed by the likes of former footballers Robbie Savage and Michael Gray and Sunderland AFC players Connor Wickham and David Meyler.
He said: “I would love to carry it. I’m shocked the council didn’t put my name forward to the London Olympic Committee when they had the chance to nominate people.
“I’ve done a lot for the council in the last four years, attending events and promoting our city as much as I can.
“I like to think I’m a great ambassador for Sunderland.
“Every time I’m on TV or in the press I’m wearing the Sunderland colours or making a point of saying that I’m from the city.”
Tony assumed he would automatically be offered the chance to carry the torch when it arrives in the city on June 16, but torch bearers had to submit applications to a national body for consideration.
Once he realised that he had to apply, the slots had already been allocated for the route, which will take in Penshaw Monument.
l To sign the petition, log on to http://chn.ge/Jaffapetition.