This one is connected with the Olympics in London in 2012 but because it’s Olympics year again, I thought I’d share it.
It’s getting nearer. Yesterday it was in Bristol and Bath. Today’s it’s in Cheltenham and tomorrow in Worcester. On Friday it comes to Wales for four days and then it’ll be gone, perhaps for ever. This may be your last chance to turn out and see it.
I’m talking about the Olympic torch relay. This spectacle has been planned as a big celebration of Britain in advance of the summer games and Wales certainly hasn’t been forgotten. As well as visiting the cities of Bangor, Cardiff, Newport and Swansea the torch will ride on an RNLI lifeboat along the Menai strait and bump along on the back of a cob horse in Aberaeron. It will be hauled up Constitution Hill in Aberystwyth by cliff railway and reach the heights of Snowdon in a narrow gauge train.
But the journey of the Olympic torch is not just a celebration of famous places; it is also a recognition of ordinary people with extraordinary stories. Two hundred people have the great privilege of carrying the torch during its journey around Wales and many of them have inspiring tales to tell of hope in adversity or dedicated community service. To read through the stories on the Olympic Torch website is to be humbled and astonished by the runners’ single-mindedness and fortitude in overcoming significant obstacles to get where they are today. One of my favourites tells of an elderly lady who completed a sponsored marathon by walking round and round her local village hall.
Of course, there are the nay-sayers who see it all as the government trying to raise people’s spirits or who take great pleasure in pointing out that the torch relay was used as propaganda to great effect by Nazi Germany. So what? That doesn’t call the whole thing into question. Unfortunate associations don’t rule out all the positives including the way people are already being drawn together to celebrate the way the human spirit can overcome adversity. In the Bible, God says, “I am doing a new thing!” and more often than not he decides to take a set of existing circumstances with not much promise and filling them with new and exciting possibilities.
And this is a dynamic we will hear repeated wherever the Olympic torch goes. A lady who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer heard one of the Welsh torch runners speak and commented, “I never thought life could be like this again .. it`s absolutely inspirational”. That’s the Spirit!