UNTIL Saturday morning, only two Bury St Edmunds people were to run in their home town, but two Olympians did a swap.
Bury Paralympian Brian Alldis was down to carry his torch in Bishop’s Stortford while Bernie Cotton, from Bishop’s Stortford, who competed in the 1974 Olympics with the British Hockey Team, was due to run in Bury. But the two persuaded the organisers, Locog, to let them swap, which it had, until then, refused to allow bearers to do.
Brian said: “The change over meant that lots of friends and family could come and see it – it was the personal touch.
“The Torch relay brings the Olympics closer to home and supports the legacy.”
Brian had hoped to carry the Torch on his hand bike, but the attachment to carry the flag would not fit on it so he used a wheelchair.
His parents bought him his Olympic Torch as a present for his 26th birthday on Sunday.
Richard Fitzsimons, 46, was not only running in his home town, but carrying the Torch into his place of work, Greene King, where the convoy had a short break.
He was surprised at the number of people who turned out and said: “The people of Bury St Edmunds did themselves proud.
“The guy driving the bus, who has been doing it from the beginning, said it was one of the busiest towns he’d seen.”
Richard said the highlight for him was that while waiting five or six minutes for the previous Torch to come and light his, so many people wanted their picture taken with him.
“Little children were really excited about getting their picture taken with you,” he said. “I must have had 100 pictures taken with people passing children through all the time I was waiting.”
Richard was nominated for his work with Focus12, the Bury charity which helped him beat addiction to alcohol.
“It does show people can turn their lives around,” he said. “Nine years ago, before I went into recovery, there’s no way I could have done something like this.
“I would’ve struggled to run 300m without holding anything.”
It was his colleague Sarah Farley, 28, a Greene King assistant buyer from Sudbury, who carried the torch out of the brewery, overcoming the nerves she said she felt in the run up to the event. She said her torch and Olympic tracksuit would go on display in the British Library in London after she visits primary schools in Long Melford and Acton to talk about her experience.
“There were so many people lining the streets and the crowd was amazing,” she said. “Everyone was so supportive and there was a real street party atmosphere. It was just overwhelming.”
The third home town Torch bearer was Michelle Gidney, 41, who ran along Fornham Road, having won the place in a staff competition at work in the town’s Waitrose.
“I’ve never seen so many people in my life,” she said. “When we got to Angel Hill in the coach you could only see heads everywhere and as you were going through they were so close.
“Being the centre of attention for 300 metres was amazing with so many friends, family and work colleagues watching.”
Alysia McIntyre, from Stowmarket, only discovered on Saturday that she would be the final Bury runner, taking the torch into the West Suffolk Athletics Track at Bury Leisure Centre where the 2012 Suffolk Youth Games prizegiving had just finished.
She said the reception she got from the children as she ran onto the track was amazing. She added: “This is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
She had spent most of the time through Bury in the Torch bearers’ coach. “It was amazing there were just so many people,” she said. “Bury St Edmunds has done amazingly with the amount of people all through the town.”
She was the ideal choice for the finale at the venue because she had been a young athlete herself and, at 21, is still young enough for the youth games competitors who crowded round her to identify with.