The Prime Minister has hailed this year’s Olympics as a major boost to the West’s tourism industry, as final details of the torch relay are announced this morning.
The relay, which will focus the world’s attention on places like Bath and Stonehenge in the run-up to the London 2012 Games, will wend its way through the West twice during May and July.
But as organisers revealed the exact times, dates and places for the Olympic flame’s visit, it became apparent that almost all the miles the torch will cover in the region will be in the back of a vehicle and not carried by local people.
In order to cover distances from, for instance, Bath to Gloucester via Marlborough and Royal Wootton Bassett, the torch is being loaded into a convoy and driven between the towns, and will only be carried by runners in built-up areas, towns and villages or to iconic places like Stonehenge.
There are some major winners in the itinerary however – the torch will be stopping for the entire lunch hour at Clarendon College secondary school in Trowbridge on May 22, the fourth day of the torch’s marathon 70-day trip around Britain.
As the fine details of the torch’s trip from its start at Land’s End in mid-May are released, the Prime Minister said the initial focus on the torch in those first few days will be a major boost to the West’s tourism region.
“Perhaps where the South West stands to gain most from this year is from the huge potential 2012 has to boost tourism,” he said.
“This year, with the eyes of the world on Britain, and athletes and media from around the globe coming to the UK, there really is no better time to shout about all these things and more – everything that makes the South West so unique and so special.”
Mr Cameron added: “I hope the region will take a lead not just in welcoming the torch, but also in getting behind the Games and making sure 2012 is not just a great year for Britain, but a great year for the South West too,” he added.
After a couple of days in Cornwall and Devon, the torch enters Somerset on May 20. Each time the torch convoy stops for the night, in Taunton, Bath and Gloucester, and then later in July in Salisbury, major civic events are planned.
With the flame travelling right across Wiltshire on the trip between Bath and Gloucester, the county gets two visits – it is being brought from London to Weymouth in early July and stops at Salisbury too.
Council leader Jane Scott said everyone in the West should seize the opportunity. “This is an historic moment for Wiltshire and we are thrilled and proud that the Olympic flame is passing through many of our local communities,” she said.
“We want people across the county to celebrate and experience this once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I have spoken to people across Wiltshire and they are eager to use both the diamond jubilee and the Olympics as an opportunity to celebrate their communities.”