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A beacon of hope lights a path to the Olympics

SCOTLAND was caught up in London 2012 fever with the arrival of the Olympic Torch – its flame burning as bright as the warm welcome received during the 138-mile relay from Stranraer to Glasgow.

LEADING LIGHT: Actor James McAvoy takes the iconic flame to Glasgow.
LEADING LIGHT: Actor James McAvoy takes the iconic flame to Glasgow.

In the coming week, the famous flame will be on a journey through the UK and Ireland before it arrives in the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on July 27 and will visit towns, cities, villages and islands north of the Border.

Yesterday, the west of Scotland and the country's biggest city were the first to see it, and for 128 people ranging from a Hollyood actor James McAvoy to headteachers and community workers it was the chance to hold it.

The trip from Stranraer, where it arrived by ferry from Northern Ireland to George Square in the heart of Glasgow, was accompanied by celebrations.

Cerebral palsy sufferer Kirsty Kane, 17, of Saltcoats, carried the torch as it passed the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.

On it went, through Kilmarnock, before arriving in East Renfrewshire, where a street party took place in the main Ayr Road on the fringes of the city boundaries.

Thousands lined Glasgow's streets to watch a slice of history, waving Saltires and Union flags. In Toryglen, Ken David, 58, an art teacher at Bearsden Academy, got his big chance after being nominated by his pupils..

Roads were gridlocked as motorists got out of their vehicles to take photographs. People climbed on to walls and mobbed the pavements, screaming, shouting and waving flags as the torch travelled by.

After it passed through the south side and on to Sauchiehall Street through to George Square, people flocked to see it at every step of the way.

Brian McQuade, 61, who carried the flame through the south side, said: "In October I got knocked down by a car and I had a fractured spine and rib and just after I was told I was to carry the Olympic Torch.

"I thought there and then that I was going to get better."

Karen Woodrow, 44, from Renfrew, carried the flame around the pitch at Hampden Park, where Olympic football games will be staged.

Pubs emptied as customers tried to catch a glimpse of the fleeting Olympic symbol. Smiling McAvoy was cheered as he walked ahead of torchbearer Jamie Sweeney, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday, along Buchanan Street. Jamie, from Drumchapel, was nominated for his involvement in local youth project G15 and carried it from Sauchiehall Street to Buchanan Street.

He said: "I can barely stand up, my legs are shaking. I got word in November that I was chosen. I was so excited and now I can't believe it's happened."

Lindsay Walker, 42, and her daughter Nicola, 15, had followed the torch from Ayrshire to the city. Mrs Walker, from the south side of Glasgow, said the day had gone too quickly, but added: "It was nice seeing James McAvoy. He was smiling away."

Myrtle Chalmers, 50, and daughter Chloe, 16, had travelled from Northumberland to see the flame being carried through Glasgow.

Chloe said: "It is coming through our village, but we really wanted to see it in Glasgow."

In Sauchiehall Street, Deepak Gupta, 30, and Aradhma Soni, 30, from Birmingham, were on their first trip to Glasgow. Deepak said: "We've always wanted to visit Glasgow so we timed it when the Olympic flame was here."

Near Glasgow University, Craig Hannah, 48, briefly gave up his job as a firefighter to protect the flame in University Avenue. Mr Hannah, from Bo'ness, West Lothian, said: "It was an absolutely amazing experience. The torch is quite heavy, but I did it and now it just feels amazing."

Local woman Jemma Lennox, 31, said: "I would have kicked myself if I didn't pop out and see it. I'll probably never get the chance to see it again."

After almost 12 hours, the flame arrived at its destination for the evening.

Scots singer Emeli Sande, Eliza Doolittle and rockers General Fiasco celebrated its arrival with an open-air party in George Square, but only after 18-year-old Ross Morrison became the final torch bearer yesterday.

Ross, from Auchinleck, East Ayrshire, carried the flame on to the stage in the square and lit the cauldron after the pop performances. Ross was nervous as he walked on stage and a countdown was held before he lit the Olympic cauldron.

He said: "Words couldn't describe my day. All my friends and family are here to support me. I won't forget this. I'd been worrying about dropping the torch, but it was fine."

Glasgow's Lord Provost Sadie Docherty said: "Glasgow has done itself proud today as usual."

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