Return to Measurers' News

Brian Porter

My moment to shine

By Brian Porter, Course Measurement Secretary for the North of England.

As someone who is not usually short of something to say, it will come as a surprise to you that I am really struggling to find the words to accurately describe the emotions I felt on Saturday June 23rd 2012, but here goes.

It all started in B & Q in August 2011 when a friend saw me and said she was going to nominate me to carry The Olympic Flame. That suggestion alone left me speechless, and that would have been enough. Once the nomination had gone in I thought that would be it.

This is the citation my friend wrote:

As well as raising over £10000 for charity, Brian is always happy to share his knowledge and expertise about organising sport events with anyone who asks, and will go to great lengths to support other athletes and organisers. Brian's love of the Fylde Coast does not stop at running marathons; he teaches Sport Science at Blackpool and The Fylde College and he is constantly searching for opportunities for his students to develop their skills. Brian's efforts mean his students have been to The London Marathon and Great North Run, providing sport massage for The Anthony Nolan Trust. When he is not supporting athletes, race organisers or students you will hear Brian address at AFC Fylde Football club where he provides stadium announcements as a volunteer. He is an enthusiastic athletics official and as the Race director of the Freckleton Half Marathon made it one of the UK's favourite races.

I then received an email on 30th November 2011 with these words at the top “Congratulations! You have been selected!” It went on but I still don’t know what else was in that email. I couldn’t believe it, and right up to the day before I carried The Flame I still didn’t believe this was going to happen to me. Only when I watched the relay in the pouring rain at Cleveleys and Blackpool did it start to sink in.

My nomination went through 6 different panels within Lloyds TSB Bank before I was chosen. They wanted local people representing local communities

We were asked to meet at St Annes Town Hall t 4.20 am. To some this is an unknown hour. But when I woke at 2.30 am I realised then I would waste energy trying to get back to sleep. A cup of tea in the peace and quiet of the early morning was just the ticket: it would be the only time I would get to myself all day.

The gathering at the Town Hall was a very relaxed affair and we were treated like Royalty by the Relay Hosts, who explained what would happen, what to expect, how to really enjoy it (actually, yes we did need to be told how to get the best out of the experience because it would be short). And we got our first hold of an Olympic Torch. They are absolutely beautiful. Fears about the Flame going out were quickly dispelled and as for dropping The Torch we were met with a note that we would naturally hold it so tight there was no danger of it. They were right: by the time I’d finished I had indentations on my palm for the holes in The Torch. The only word of caution we received was to not let anyone else hold it. It would be embarrassing if someone ran off with it!

Although The Mayor and local MP were there, they were brilliant in that they really kept out of things. I was expecting speeches and bold statements, but no, they stayed in the background and only posed for the photos we asked for.

After coffee and bacon butties, we were off on the bus to start the journey. The roads were very quiet as we rode along towards St Thomas’s Road to Royal Lytham Golf Club. But as we turned onto St Thomas’s Road they crowds were 6 deep, and very enthusiastic. We dropped off the first Torchbearer to a big cheer from us (we all got cheered off the bus and back onto the bus afterwards) and we were off, with Police outriders from The Metropolitan Police accompanying us. All along the route the crowds were incredible but I rather liked that they weren’t too big that people couldn’t see. There were enough to make lots of noise, yet they were able to get their photographs.

I was dropped off at Coronation Road and had a few minutes to say “Hello” to family and friends, and it was great to have that time to enjoy the moment with people who had made the effort to come and see me. But I wanted to share it with people who didn’t know me, who had come to see The Flame. I overheard one person say I was “brilliant with the kids”, which was lovely to hear. But all I was doing was showing what people had come to see: The Torch. It is The Torch and The Flame who are the stars, let there be no mistake about that. I was the custodian for a short while and I am unbelievably proud to have been so. This is a feeling I share with other Torchbearers I have spoken to.

The detail the Metropolitan Police Team have gone to is incredible. A motorcycle outrider approached and, calling me by name, explained that I would have 4 officers around me and they would look after me. I should listen to them as they would spot things and people I would otherwise miss.

And then the enormous moment arrived. Jack approached with The Flame and now it was my turn. I was not about to let this slip by in an instant. I was going to take as long as I could to do these 300 metres, and to savour it. I don’t think the crowd wanted a sprint either. The Torches kissed and when the security man was happy mine was fully lit, we parted them. I remembered now that I was the only person in the world carrying The Olympic Flame. How do I find the words to describe that? The assembled crowd cheered as I held The Flame as high as I could (a point mentioned on the Torchcam text commentary). Most would think I was holding it up for people to see. In reality this was always my intention. It was just a moment for me; quiet (I couldn’t hear the crowds at this point), calm, and peaceful. This was a time for me to think about dear family and friends who are no longer with us, but I know were looking down on me. And then it was time to go. SLOWLY! A couple of times I was asked if I could speed up. My reply was “I can, but I’m not going to.” And we shared a laugh about it. The security men and women were true to their promise and pointed out people in the crowd so I could wave to them and they could get their photos. The Security team are very conscious this is everyone’s time. They crouch down the Kisses; I thought this was because they are tired from doing 20 miles a day. But it’s so they don’t get in the way of photographs.

I was to hand over to Geraldine and when we met we hugged each other and once her Torch was lit, we both did a Star Jump and off she went. I was ushered to the side of the road and there was just a few seconds for some final photos before I was on the follow up bus to enjoy the rest of our section.

I couldn’t get over the size of the crowds along Lytham Green and especially in Warton. Warton particularly blew me away; maybe because it is my doorstep. At the outskirts of Freckleton our bus left the convoy ad returned us to The Town Hall to meet up with family and friends. As quickly as the crowds had built they had dispersed, with their own memories of History.

When we got back to The Town Hall I met up with my family and a few friends in a coffee shop while they decommissioned our Torches. Being still in the white uniform, people wanted photographs and I was happy to oblige. And then I got my Torch to keep. Back into The Town Hall for more photographs, then some time on my own again as I drove home.

I get asked the same questions but never tire of answering them:

How did I get selected? Hopefully I’ve answered that one above

Is it heavy? I just pass The Torch to them and let them decide. I love the expression on faces when I pass it to them.

Can we light it? Well, the truth would be “yes” probably. Being as close as I am to BAE Systems I’m sure some of their engineers could get it going again. But I’m not going down that route. The Torch burnt The Olympic Flame. I don’t think it should burn again.

Can I hold it? Of course you can, you are welcome and it is my pleasure.

Would you sell it? Absolutely not. It’s value is priceless.

How did it feel to carry it? And this is where I struggle. Up to this point it’s been factual. Now you want emotions and for me to try to sum it up. I’ve been trying for three weeks since I carried The Flame to get the words. I don’t think I’ll ever fully sum up the enormity but here’s an attempt at the scale. When I talk to kids in schools I tell them it’s like having Christmas every day and that every time I turn round there is another present more amazing than the last.

I remember my Wedding day and the birth of my Son like they were yesterday. I don’t need the photographs or anything else to remind me. The memories are there and I ca remember everything clearly. Carrying The Olympic Flame is right up there with getting married and becoming a Dad.

I am proud beyond belief. I think those who were there saw it in my whole body. I am extremely honoured to have been chosen. I am very humbled that I was chosen when I read other stories of inspirational people. I’ve never really understood why people think I am inspirational but they are entitled to their opinion.

I was and remains an emotional experience. Having The Torch is rather like having a new baby at the moment. I’m not the only Torchbearer who took it to bed with them the night they got it, nor am I the only one who cuddles their Torch! When I take it to places I am happy to pass it round, like a proud parent, but periodically I just have to get it back to make sure it’s OK! Daft I know, but I’m not alone in my behaviour.

Since I carried The Flame I have taken The Torch to lots of schools, running clubs, Beaver, Cubs, Scouts, Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, pre-school groups, Churches and Rest Homes. I’ve taken it to a couple of individuals who are housebound. There has been no let-up in the requests for me to take The Torch to places and the welcome it receives is universally wonderful.

Brian Porter

Return to Measurers' News