THE PEOPLE of Bury St Edmunds lined the streets armed with the Union Flag to cheer and hoot as torchbearers passed the Olympic Flame through the heart of the historic town centre.
The town’s relay started on Horringer Road, where crowds waited in anticipation for the Torch to arrive.
Twelve-year-old Kyle McLean, from Essex, was first to have his Olympic Torch ignited to the rapturous cheers of the assembled crowds.
Louise Williams and Lynne Burns, who have been watching athletics together for years, were delighted to be able to watch the Torch Relay travel through the town together.
They said: “It feels like a bit of history, we will not get to do this again.
“I think it makes everyone feel a part of the Olympics whether they can actually go or not. When you look around there’s kids, parents and grandparents everyone has turned out.”
The relay paused briefly at Greene King where employees and their families saw their colleagues Richard Fitzsimons and Sarah Farley stand on a stage to pass on the flame with the signiture Torch kiss.
Hayley Mead, a Greene King employee, said: “It’s really nice to be able to get so close to it and to have someone from Coca-Cola talking us through it, giving the countdown and getting everyone cheering, it really added to the excitement.
“It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience.”
The largest crowds gathered on Angel Hill, where people crowded on to balconies and hung out of windows to witness the iconic Torch being carried past the town’s historic Abbey Gate.
Jim Cross, 50, from Moreton Hall, had come to see the Torch with wife Laura, 39, son Cameron, six, and daughter Elizabeth, four.
He said: “It is fantastic – an event like this really does the town some good.
“We are all very excited that they have chosen Bury as a town to host the flame. It is beautiful town and the perfect setting for an occasion like this.
“It is great to have the children come along and see the Olympic Flame being carried through their town, it really is a once-in- a-lifetime moment.”
It was announced on Friday that paralympian Brian Alldis would be carrying the Torch in his home town .
Brian, who competed in the paralympics at Beijing 2008, carried the Torch up Beetons Way and past County Upper School where he was a student.
Brian said: “It was amazing – I was quite speechless when I carried the Torch, so many people came out to watch.
“I was not sure how many people would be out, but the whole route was really busy. It was nice to see everyone, it was one big party.”
The relay concluded at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre where 3,000 people gathered to see Alysia McIntyre, 21, from Bury, carry the Torch on a lap of honour around the leisure centre’s athletics track before taking her position atop a podium to a final rapturous cheer.
Alysia said: “It was amazing there were so many people – Bury St Edmunds has done an amazing job, particularly with the amount of people all through the town.”
Cllr John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “Bury St Edmunds is used to hosting memorable events but the Torch Relay surpassed all expectations.
“We estimate that 60,000 people watched the Olympic flame come through the town – the atmosphere along the entire route was electric, with residents holding parties in their gardens and friendly crowds thronging the pavements.”
It was also a successful day for Bury’s tourism industry.
Lisa Graham-Hall, manager of the Dog and Partridge pub, in Crown Street, which was passed by the Torch, said: “It was brilliant before and after – we had a lot of customers in eating and drinking before and a fresh lot coming in after.
“I think it really has done us a great deal of good with that, the Jubilee and Showcase street party it’s a very good year. People who had not been in for a long while came in and I think they will come in again.”