Talking West Cheshire

Tens of thousands welcome Olympic Torch to Chester as it makes North West debut

29 May 2012

Fireworks at Chester RacecourseChester’s Olympic Torch relay and a major extravaganza at the racecourse attracted one of the biggest crowds in the city’s long history.

The festivities began shortly before 6pm today (Tuesday) when the Torch crossed the border from North Wales into England – making its North West debut.

Tens of thousands lined the route as the Torchbearers wound their way through the city, taking in landmarks including The Groves, Amphitheatre and Eastgate Clock.

Councillor Stuart Parker, Executive Member for Culture and Recreation, said: “This is a day that Chester will never forget.

“It seems as though the whole of the North West is here celebrating with us.”

The Town Hall Square was packed to the rafters with a sea of red, white and blue hats, flags, whistles, banners and bam-bams.

One of the youngest spectators to greet the Torch was 18-month old Ellie, who waved her Union Jack flag and danced with her dad as a brass band played on the steps of a Town Hall emblazoned with the national flag.

The Cathedral’s Canon Jane Brook welcomed Torchbearer Alexandra Maciver as she rounded St Werburgh Street, while Freeman of the City, Councillor Hilarie McNae, greeted the Torch from the steps of the Town Hall…with a little help from the Royal Family of Giants!

Screams, whistles, clapping and cheering heralded the moment when Alexandra and Olga Shelest’s Torches kissed and the procession was completed to the chants of a 12-strong Roman troupe marching their way through the historic city. 

At the racecourse, Lord Mayor of Chester Councillor Pam Booher gave a special welcome to the Torch as it completed its final leg courtesy of jockey Jason McGuire and 2011 Chester Cup winner Overturn.

To loud cheers from the thousands of onlookers in the oldest racecourse in the country - and lining the Walls above - they travelled in a steady trot along the track to the rousing theme from Chariots of Fire.

The excitement of the crowd reached fever pitch as Jason dismounted below the stage and sprinted up the steps, proudly holding the Torch aloft.

The entire racecourse then counted down to the moment when the flame passed from the Torch to the cauldron – broadcast on two giant screens – in a spectacular culmination of the day’s festivities.

At the racecourse well over 20,000 people are now watching a show which includes 350 local singers and dancers.

And around 500 dancers are taking part in the spectacular finale the ‘Moment When….’ which features professional dance artists and aerialists in a co-production between Cheshire Dance and Walk the Plank.   

There will be fireworks, special effects and especially composed music set against a backdrop of the City Walls.

STORY NOTE: Early estimates suggest that approximately 60,000 people in total lined the Torch relay route and joined the racecourse celebrations.

Pictures from the Torch celebrations and relay


Highlights of the ceremony