I had arrived early just ahead of two other friends. The three of us were amongst the few who took heed of the event timing, to arrive by 1:00 pm.
Standing, leaning and sitting on the low wall opposite the Queen Mary and Westfield University along the route of the torch, we waited patiently as, akin to a stream’s trickle, other friends and viewers joined us.
Tourists from far and wide, Asia, the Americas, happening to walk past, paused to ask the reasons for the growing crowd, their excitement exasperated when learning that the man about to run past them, 30 year old of Abdul Kasam.
More about the Olympics:
Excited, Farhana, a very proud – and rightly so – Kasam's wife arrived. She was still on an adrenaline high from watching her husband being broadcast around the world the night before while collecting the Olympic torch at the Tower of London.
We all gathered leaning into the street to catch a glimpse of Kasam. For many, this was our first real encounter with the Olympic torch route, we didn’t know what to expect. Then it happened. A series of police escorts, buses and vans, one branded with Samsung, another with Coca-cola, two of the lead sponsors, eager not to lose a single moment of brand promotion. Kasam stepped out with his unlit torch in hand.
|Kasam and his wife Farhana.|
For those unaware, each torchbearer has their own torch, and it is the flame, the same flame, which passes from torchbearer to torchbearer. Then he was mobbed. Crowded round by family, friends and fans; everybody is eager to catch a glimpse from Kasam.
For some it was the man on TV last night, for other’s it was the man carrying the Olympic torch, and for others, it was their uncle.
Before the commotion could settle, the Olympic escorts struggled to control the crowd as the previous runner drew close. They arrived, there was a short real-time briefing by a cyclist, the torches ‘kissed,’ Kasam paused momentarily for a few photographs, then off he went. Just as fast as he came he was gone again.
Despite many of us fasting we were abuzz with excitement. Two of us decided to return to their home and wait for Kasam to be ‘released’ from the Olympic authorities.
Upon arrival Kasam's exhaustion was clear to see, yet still he obliged us with some photos and video clips. He picked up his Olympic torch and we headed to a local park. There while posing, a group of children on vacation in London spotted the torch and one by one raised the courage to ask for photos to be taken with him and his torch.
|For those unaware, each torchbearer has their own torch, and it is the flame, the same flame, which passes from torchbearer to torchbearer.|
Passer-bys, including joggers stopped, paused, and questioned in amazement, ‘Is that a real torch? Where did you get it? Lucky you!” Then watching from a distance another group of children on a day trip to that part of London sat on a coach about to leave asked if they too could pose, so Kasam obliged, stepping onto the coach.
Group after group, anyone and everyone who saw him and his torch asked for a photo: locals, tourists, people of all ages and all walks of life.
At first, I like many others was skeptical about the Olympic torch relay, but after witnessing how people came together, I was simply struck and agog at the sense of community.
If this was the impact from a single Olympic torch, I cannot begin to imagine the positive impact of the actually games themselves!
Roll on London Olympics 2012!
Watch a video interview with Kasam: