Olympic flame lights up Giffnock

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CROWDS flooded to Giffnock like never before to line the streets as the Olympic torch passed through.

More than 15,000 people welcomed the relay to East Renfrewshire, filling the entire route along Fenwick road.

The torch entered in to the authority at Merrylee shops just after 5pm on Friday, where it was welcomed in by new Provost Alastair Carmichael and piped in by Neilston Pipe Band Major, Iain McDonald.

“What a fabulous turnout to welcome the torch”, said Provost Carmichael, “you can really feel a sense of history in the making.

“Everyone was wanting to be involved in cheering it on.”

A total of six torchbearers took part, receiving rapturous applause from the crowd.

Southsider Rebecca Morris earned the honour to be the 107th bearer of the torch because of her commitment to football coaching.

The 17-year-old from King’s Park ran with the torch from Station Road to Church Road. She told The Extra: “I cannot believe the size of the crowds and the scale of the event and how special this was just hit me at the torch kiss.

“The support and atmosphere was overwhelming”.

The torch relay took a break for two minutes at the corner of Montgomery Drive, pausing as children from East Renfrewshire sang a specially commissioned song, “a place to grow”.

In the run up to the arrival of the relay, kids were entertained by face painting, sports demos and all kinds of street entertainers.

The Giffnock event had the largest audience on route for Day 21 of the Olympic torch relay, and Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh believes the event was a starting pistol for Olympic fever which is sweeping East Renfrewshire.

He commented: “The fact that so many families came out to welcome the torch bearers shows the excitement of the Olympics is mounting. “Young people in East Renfrewshire are becoming increasingly active as a result of London 2012.

“My kids are excited as anybody about the Olympics coming to this country.

“It’s a way of inspiring a whole new generation in the Olympic ideal and health, fitness, sporting endeavour, and competition.”

Giffnock and Thornliebank councillor Gordon Wallace was overwhelmed by the number of residents who attended.

“Local business owners, residents and council staff should be congratulated for showcasing the community at it’s very best”, he said.

“This huge effort was well rewarded as 15,000 folk converged to witness the torch as it passed through East Renfrewshire’s boundaries.

“We were so lucky with the weather and the atmosphere was as you would expect – good humoured and incredibly supportive of the event.

“It was typified by the cheers of delight and laughter in support for the First Bus Driver who waved to the crowds in regal fashion as he sneakily managed to steer his charges through what should have been a blocked off main street!”

East Renfrewshire’s chief inspector Alan Murray thanked local people for their behaviour after the torch relay came through without a hitch.

He told The Extra: “I would like to compliment everybody in attendance on how they behaved, despite very large crowds.

“The whole event went very well and the behaviour of the crowd was extremely good and well natured, which we much appreciated”.

Alex Japp, who has lived in Giffnock for more than 30 years, told The Extra: “In all my time here, there has been nothing that has even come close to this.

“It is marvellous to see so many people out and about in the community, lining the streets.

“They should do this every Friday!”

However, Laurence Edwards, a 52-year-old business owner from Giffnock, was not quite so enamoured with the event.

He commented: “It was a bit of an anti-climax. I’m also surprised that the torch bearers weren’t local people.

“It would have been apt to used this opportunity to have given some southsiders who put a lot of effort into sport in our community a bit more recognition”.

During this leg of the trip, the Olympic flame also made its way to the home of Scotland’s national football side, Hampden Park.

Hampden Park will be hosting eight football matches during the Olympic Games this summer, including one of the women’s quarter-finals.