Carrying a torch for the Olympics: Croydon’s route

The Olympics come to Croydon, however briefly, on Monday.

Our council has been dog-in-the-manger about the Olympic spirit, having not staged any special Games-related activities in previous years, as if they wanted to turn Croydon’s back on the Greatest Show on Earth. All-in-all it amounts to a considerable missed opportunity.

Even the publicity for Monday’s Big Get Together, organised by the part-council-funded (ie. funded by us) big businesses of the Croydon BID group, barely makes mention of the Torch Relay.

They won’t be able to ignore the corporate bandwagon as it rolls into town on Monday lunchtime, with various bankers and minor executives from a Korean electronics company given the honour of waddling 300 yards through suburban streets. Oh, and Patrick Stewart will carry to torch into St Andrew’s School.

The decisions of who gets to carry the Olympic Torch have been a mixture of the best possible motives and the worst examples of corporate greed and preference.

Thus relay sponsors Lloyds TSB – one of the failure banks of the crash of the past decade, and now basically owned by the UK public – was allocated 1,100 torch bearer slots, some of which it used to promote through its adverts and to its customers. But one-third of those slots were simply handed out to bank employees.

Wondered why got to carry the Olympic torch in the west country? Coca-Cola. Didier Drogba in Swindon? Samsung. Even one of Seb Coe’s tamest journalists, with a fairly dodgy business background including a trail of massive debts and at least one bankruptcy, has been given the “honour” of carrying the torch through Merton later on Monday.

Croydon Harriers’ Mike Fleet receives an award for lifetime service from the Mayor of Croydon, Eddy Arram, last month

None of which will be apparent to the many tens of thousands who will line the route on Monday, and nor will it sully the emotion and real honour that the likes of Mike Fleet.

Fleet has been a torch bearer for sport and community service throughout his career, coaching many thousands of youngsters in Croydon for decades. His is exactly the kind of person who deserves such an honour. Money-grabbing LOCOG will still make sure he pays the 200 quid or so if he wants to keep his torch afterwards, though…

Notably not on the list of torch-bearers in her borough, though, is one of Britain’s greatest ever Olympic competitors, Sanderstead’s Dorothy Tyler, a medal-winner at the 1936 and the 1948 Games. Why has she not been given such an honour?

Six days and counting to the Games.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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