What’s that faint plume of smoke I see on the horizon? No, it’s not the hot air escaping from a hundred over-excited journalists; it’s the imminent arrival of the Olympic Torch in Cambridge on the 7th and 8th July. Whatever your position on the Olympics, from ‘batten down the hatches’ to ‘declare a national holiday’ we’re not likely to see such a thing again, so expect many thousands of people to come into town to view the procession and join in the celebrations on Parkers Piece.
For your viewing comfort we’ve put together the following top tips:
The torch’s route. At 6pm on July 7th the torch will be given to a torchbearer on Newmarket Road (by Ditton Road) travelling down Barnwell Road, Brook Road, Mill Road and into Parker’s Piece at around 6.50, where it lights the Olympic cauldron.
On Sunday 8th at 6.50am the torch will be put onto a punt at the back of Trinity College and punted up the river for 20 minutes to Magdelene Bridge. It will then go up Huntingdon Road to Whitehouse Lane, leaving Cambridge at 7.38am.
Driving and parking. Get into town early if you can: Mill Road is the only major road closure (from mid afternoon on Saturday) but adding the torch relay to what is already a busy summer Saturday is going to slow things down. Keep the blood pressure down by leaving plenty of time to find your preferred watching spot. This is particularly the case if you have mobility problems.
Where to view. Dearly as I love it, try to avoid Mill Road. It gets crowded if two pushchairs try to pass each other, so adding in a few thousand extra people is going to create quite a crush – although the atmosphere should be specially fun! Try for the wider roads or Donkey Common and Parker’s Piece, which also have the added bonus of loos! On Sunday, Trinity are planning to allow the public onto the Backs to watch the torch punted away and this will probably offer the most iconic image for early risers.
Watching the relay. The convoy itself moves at brisk walking pace and the first thing you’ll see are the sponsors’ vehicles, which will be providing things like hats and flags. If you fancy a freebie, you need to be on the left hand side of the convoy. After that come the torchbearers – time to get out the camera if your hands aren’t already full of freebies.
Family fun. Standing in a crowd for a long time can test little ones’ patience, so come prepared with appropriate snacks, drinks, sunscreen/umbrellas. Many kids feel much more chipper if they’ve got involved with the preparations and the torch relay website has some excellent celebration ideas – make your own torch, design a ‘flame hat’ (from, ironically, fire retardant materials) or simply good old Union Jack face painting will all help build interest, although nothing is going to stop little Johnnie needing the loo 30 seconds before the first car in the convoy goes past.
Evening celebration. After the torch lights the cauldron on Parker’s Piece, the celebrations will continue with a stage show and spectacular called A Field for Dreams. Music, dance, huge animated puppets, lanterns and fireworks are promised – come to Parker’s Piece early to make your own flag or lantern.
More details. Much more information (Where are the loos? What about bike parking? How do I make that flame proof hat?) is available on two websites: Cambridge City Council and the Olympic torch relay. I highly recommend a read.