ROXBURGHSHIRE’s omission from the route which will carry the Olympic torch through the Borders next year is “absolutely outrageous”, according to Jedburgh councillor Len Wyse.
The former provost told us this week: “I am staggered that the largest county in the Borders region has been overlooked in this way and that towns like Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso and Hawick, where sport has always played a huge cultural role, will miss out.”
The Conservative councillor was commenting after the London 2012 Organising Committee unveiled the route of the iconic torch on Monday – an occasion marked locally with a photoshoot at Scottish Borders Council headquarters at Newtown.
Torchbearers will carry the Olympic flame south from Edinburgh in relay through Eddleston, Peebles, Innerleithen and Walkerburn during the morning of June 14 next year. It will then go to Selkirk, Galashiels, Earlston, Gordon, Duns, Chirnside and Foulden in the afternoon before continuing its journey south to the capital for the opening ceremony on July 27.
“It is absolutely outrageous that Roxburghshire is not on the route,” said Mr Wyse who revealed he is seeking to garner support from other councillors who represent wards the county.
“I am minded to present a motion at the council meeting on November 25 calling for SBC to raise the matter with the Olympic Committee and I have already received verbal support for this move from Hawick councillors Jock Houston and Stuart Marshall.
“As I recall, Lord Coe [chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee] gave an assurance that the route of the flame would take in every county in the country, but that is patently not the case as far as Roxburghshire is concerned.”
Back in 1971, another Hawick councillor, David Paterson, was Scottish flyweight boxing champion and was included in the squad from which Britain’s representatives for the Olympic Games in Munich the following year would be selected.
“I just couldn’t make the weight of eight stone so missed out on the national Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) championships in London and my dreams of bringing Olympic glory to Hawick and Scotland were shattered,” recalled Councillor Paterson this week.
And he admitted he was “very disappointed” that his native town – the region’s largest settlement with a population of 13,787 – is not on the torch route.
“It is a bit of a blow for the biggest town in the Borders, but I suppose the best we can hope for now is that Teries are well represented when it comes to selecting the torch bearers.”
Nominations closed in the summer in the Moment to Shine campaign which sought 8,000 “inspirational” torch bearers during the flame’s 70-day journey across the UK.
TheSouthern understands that around 60 Borderers will be selected to fulfil this duty on June 14 with an announcement on the chosen ones expected in February.
“I certainly hope that Hawick and the other Roxburghshire towns are well represented among the torchbearers to compensate for us missing out on the route,” said Mr Paterson.
Tweeddale East councillor Graham Garvie, SBC’s executive member for culture, sport and community learning, said the route had been planned by the London 2012 Organising Committee so that the flame would come within an hour of 95 per cent of the UK population and this had been achieved in the local itinerary announced this week.
“The Olympic torch relay will shine a spotlight on the people and places in the Borders and I have no doubt the welcome in these towns and their surrounding communities will demonstrate the Olympic spirit is alive and well in this region,” said Mr Garvie. “I expect thousands to turn out.”
There is no doubt, however, that the towns on the route will benefit hugely from the torch’s visit.
Indeed, in an email to community council secretaries in his ward, Mr Garvie enthuses: “Great news for us in Tweeddale ... we shall be looking at ways to maximise community involvement over the coming months and further details will be issued in due course.”
Brian McCrow of Innerleithen, Traquair and Glen Community Council told us: “This is fantastic news for Tweeddale and we will start planning for a big event to maximise the impact of this momentous occasion.”
The torchbearers can certainly bank on a colourful welcome when they enter Selkirk for the town will be a blaze of coloured bunting in anticipation of its common riding celebrations the following day.