Family Adventure Capital Jubilympics Olympics

Has the Olympic Torch lost its way?

Written by Kirstie Pelling
Moment to Shine Stage Glebe Bowness on Windermere

This is our moment to shine..

Has the Olympic Torch lost its way?

Tonight the Olympic flame floated across Windermere. It was a historic moment that brought a lump to my throat, and the moment found me and the kids dashing away from Katy B on the stage, to see the real star of the Olympic Torch Relay.

The Modern Olympic flame..

Looking as regal as the flotillas in the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant a fortnight ago, the Olympic flame sailed out of the dusky drizzle and into the light of a thousand camera flashes.  This was a Lake District pageant, the flame aboard the Tern surrounded by dragon boats, cruisers and canoes. Once ashore the torch sprinted in with local lass Jan Booth on its way to take the ‘Moment to Shine’ stage at The Glebe in Bowness-on-Windermere.

Waiting for Olympic Torch, Bowness on Windermere

Waiting in the rain… a very usual Lake District scene but on a very special day

But here’s the thing….

Shortly afterwards, it went out. The Olympic flame goes to bed you see. The people on the stage explained what they were about to do shortly before they extinguished it, to avoid panic. But when the flame went out it extinguished my whole illusion of the eternal Olympian torch. You know, the kind that never goes out.

I believed in its magic. I thought it was like God or Simon Cowell; always there if you needed a quick fix. It got me thinking. The Olympic flame really isn’t what it used to be, is it?

Waiting for Olympic Torch, Bowness on Windermere

The path is clear, we just need the flame

Once upon a time it sprinted through ancient Greece like it was…well like it was on fire. But like the rest of us, it seems to have got lazy. I mean it arrived on a boat? Tonight it will have eight hours sleep. Where does a flame sleep? In a flame retardant bed. Then, in the morning, it’ll be driven to Kendal.

After breakfast (and shower?) it’ll do a quick jog into Milnthorpe before driving down the A6 on its way to Carnforth. Admittedly there can’t be a less heroic road anywhere in the world than the A6, but you’d think it might have a crack at it? The Olympic flame will have an easier morning than the rest of us. By the time it starts its commute to work, I will have made three packed lunches, done last night’s dishes, got the kids ready for school, put the washing out, answered my e-mails and got on a train to London.

Union Jack Bowness on Windermere, Moment to Shine

Most people are waving Samsung flags but you can see the Union Jack on the screens.

And here’s another thing….

Since when did the flame get so pally with the major corporations? It’s now more branded than Marks and Spencer’s Meal Deals. And when it tootles down the A6 on its glory ride towards Lancashire, it won’t be alone. It will be followed by the Lloyds TSB bus, the Coca Cola wagon and I’m sure there must be a Samsung something.

Brand Sponsor Olympics

Beat out that rhythm, while we wait. With your Coke drum.

Tonight the flame was welcomed on stage by the Coke Show, where everyone in the audience helped make a Mark Ronson style soundtrack of British Sports by banging their Coca Cola drums. Sadly in these hard times, the local entrepreneur selling Union Jacks on the field was doing no trade at all because everyone was waving their free Samsung mascots. It gives you an uneasy sense of The Games having sold out. No, the Olympic flame isn’t what it used to be.

Katy B Bowness on Windermere

We will move to the beat of the Games. And the rhythm of the sponsors.

Ah but here’s the real thing…

Actually it is what it used to be. The flame is a symbol of the Olympic spirit. And tonight, during the short  period it was allowed to stay up, we all felt that spirit there with us.

Olympic Torch on Tern Bowness on Windermere

The flame arrives from Ambleside by boat. Very Lake District (but a little lazy?)

The Olympic flame is about being the very best you can be. It’s about pushing yourself and inspiring others. It’s about the human qualities of self belief, dedication, determination, commitment. It’s about ignoring the modern distractions of TV and branding and concentrating on what is inside yourself and discovering what you are capable of.  That’s what I want of my flame.

Jen Booth Olympic Torch Bowness on Windermere

The torch is back on land and on its way to light the Windermere beacon
on the Moment to Shine stage (sponsored by…)

And that’s why I cheered, and waved and felt a lump in my throat. Because the Olympic flame can get away with a lot more than most of us. So I will try and forgive its modern ways, temptations and indiscretions. And to be honest, if I had the choice of jogging down the A6 or hopping in a mini, I know which I’d do.

Tomorrow thousands of people will descend on Windermere for The Great North Swim. The Olympic flame will be on its way to Blackpool and enjoying a nice glass of Coca Cola by the time the swimmers get into their stride. And on reflection, I think I’m ok with that. Are you?

Olympic Torch Flame Bowness on Windermere

The ‘beacon’ is lit. At least for 15 minutes or so before it has to go to bed.

What do you think of the behaviour of the modern flame? I’d love to hear your comments. Click comments below and tell us what you think.

This post is part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together. Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • Do check out the alternative relay that is also happening about 10 days later. This was set up by some runners who were surprised the flame was getting driven about so have decided to run the route in it’s entirety, with runners doing legs of about 10 miles each. This is being done a) to prove it can be done and b) to raise money for charity.
    However I love that it seems to be a celebration weekend with the Great North Swim happening too! Our torch visit was supposed to coincide with our town’s rowing regatta. The latter has now unfortunately been cancelled. Instead we will be taking our son’s school class torch down to Weymouth and Portland for the weekend!

  • Interesting post. It is sad when something like this changes. I think what is important is the symbolism behind it. I remember seeing the Olympic Torch many years ago in Halifax. I’m pretty sure it was brought in my by a runner, and left in the hands of a runner. If my memory serves me correctly, it was Mohammed Ali who welcomed the torch that day, not Coca Cola 🙂

    Thanks for joining Travel Photo Thursday!

    • There were runners here too but it does seem strange it gets a lift here and there! Anyway these kind of events are great memory makers. No matter what the brand politics or the weather it was great to go and see it. In fact the weather made it all the more memorable and I know the kids will remember ‘the night mum and dad made us stand in the pouring rain to see the Olympic torch’ !

  • The Olympic Torch came through our town on its way to the Vancouver Winter Olympics and we needed to walk only a couple of blocks from our house to wait to see it pass. It was freezing cold and as we were waiting I was annoyed by all the Coke merchandise that was being handed out and how commercial it had all become. But when the torch came into view and the crowd starting cheering, I was as excited as everyone else. The Olympics have changed a lot in recent years but it is still a great sporting event with incredible athletes that has the power to stir national pride – and in a world that can sometimes be too crass and commercial it’s nice to see that national pride and Olympic spirit rise to the surface.

  • I had no idea it “went to bed” – I, like you, assumed it burned on and on……. like it does during the games. But what a once in a lifetime experience that must have been to have seen it and the procession in person.

    Thanks for sharing it with us and linking up this week!

  • I volunteered for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 and watched the torch run through my hometown. I am somewhat disappointed by the commercialism, but ten years later, I still feel the legacy of the Olympics in Salt Lake City an am just as excited to watch the London games on television. I believe that the Olympic Spirit transcends the commercialism that makes some of it possible.

  • Hmm, guess everything get uber-marketed in today’s age, but I thought just maybe that this would be one thing that didn’t.

  • We saw it when it came through Shrewsbury on the way to Much Wenlock a number of weeks ago.
    It wasn’t that well organized, it took ages, too much sponsors expecting the crowd to cheer them, the ‘runner’ only did 100 yards, then it was put out and they got back onto the tour bus.
    We were hoping for something a bit ‘more’.

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