Carrying the Olympic torch

PUBLISHED: 00:16 23 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:57 20 February 2013

Carrying the Olympic torch

Carrying the Olympic torch

Debbie Graham gets under starter's orders for our series of articles on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic celebrations in Herefordshire and the Wye Valley and our own golden heroes

On July 27 the worlds greatest party begins and all eyes will be on London. But the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are not just about those six historic weeks in London, as the events present a unique chance to create something that will inspire the whole country. Its a real opportunity to celebrate Great Britain and whats happening here, our talent and the strength of the country, says Steve Ashton, Herefordshire legacy officer for the 2012 Games.

Back in 2005, when London was chosen as the host of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, one of the key aims was to ensure the celebrations werent just about the games in the Capital but about the country as a whole. Counties across the UK started to plan how they could benefit from the games and in Herefordshire and Worcestershire the Raising Our Game programme was created with Steve as co-ordinator.

He says: The main aim of Raising Our Game is to maximise the benefits of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for Herefordshire. That needs to be across several different areas: business and tourism, sport and physical activity, youth and young people, education and skills, and volunteering.

Steves enthusiasm is infectious. He wants everyone to realise what an exciting opportunity the Olympics is and how everyone, from any walk of life, can benefit, whether it is businesses winning Olympic contracts or getting more children and adults interested in sport. In short, use the occasion as catalyst for something great and ensure the flame doesnt go out when the games end.

The lasting legacy should be about recognising achievement, raising activity levels and creating a pride about the country. I hope everybody is getting excited, he says.

Assisting the programme in spreading the word is a series of illustrious Olympic athletes, from middle-distance runner Christina Boxer to Paralympian swimmer Sascha Kindred. They work as ambassadors and have been kept busy attending local events and awards nights.

Most of them have been keen to share their experiences and put something back into the community. The ambassadors role is to inspire people to get involved and act as a voice for us. They have all been fantastic; I am really chuffed with their involvement, says Steve.

And the next six months is set to get more exciting with physical activity programmes, sporting courses, volunteering schemes, and lots of community games, a mix of sporting and cultural activities or competitions with, so far, more than 165,000 people participating in 224 Community Games across the West Midlands. The aim is to make this number to 500 by the Olympic kick off in July. Its bringing people together, says Steven.

And keep an eye on your neighbours as the official games loom, in particular the Paralympic Games, as there might just be some celebrated athletes
among them.

We are in discussions with some pre-games training camps from different countries and we are hoping to attract a Paralympic team, Steve says. That new face in the neighbourhood buying a pint of milk could be someone on the brink of gold.

So for those that think the Olympics start and finish with London, think again. Im excited about the Olympics, says Steve. But I am more excited about the benefits to Herefordshire.

To find out more about what is going on where visit

Olympic Hero: Moira Starkey
Dont miss the iconic Olympic torch when it visits villages and towns across Herefordshire and the Wye Valley in May. The torch is the very symbol of the Olympics, with its origins lying in ancient Greece when a fire was kept burning throughout their games.

The flame was reintroduced during the 1928 games, with the modern torch relay, which brings the torch from Greece to the Olympic venue, beginning in 1936. And this year it will travel the length and breadth of the UK so that as many people as possible can get up close to the
iconic torch.

Carrying the torch along this journey will be around 8,000 inspirational people, and for them it will be a moment in the spotlight when their achievements are recognised by the public. One of these proud bearers is Moira Starkey, from Storridge. Moira, despite her almost 85 years of age, has raised nearly 11,000 since 2004 for The Haven in Hereford, which helps sufferers of breast cancer and their families deal with the physical and emotional side-effects of breast cancer.

Shock horror, why me? was Moiras immediate reaction on hearing that she was a bearer and she admits to quite happily wanting to strangle Frankie Devereux, the Havens manager who nominated her. I am sure there will be much more suitable people. Im very small potatoes you know, she says. However Frankie begs to differ. I nominated Moira because she has been a tireless fundraiser for the Hereford Haven since 2004, she says. Moira is incredibly modest and does not realise what a special lady she is. To take on a marathon on two sticks aged 83 and with two replacement knees was a fantastic achievement. (It took Moira four months to walk the equivalent of 26 miles around her local village hall.) Without people like Moira, support centres like the Haven would not exist and we all owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

But giving was what Moira was brought up to do. She was born in 1927 near Wolverhampton and has never married, instead devoting her life caring for her sick or elderly relatives. I never had a proper job, she says I have been a carer all my life. I was brought up to understand that I was fortunate. There are lots of people less well off than yourself and you look after them, I was told, and thats what I have always done. Now I am on my own I can please myself and I can do it for charity.

Moira began fundraising in 1990 and has supported Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, St Michaels Hospice, St Richards Hospice, Acorns, the Cats Protection League the list goes on and she couldnt guess how much she has raised over the years. She turned to fundraising for The Haven when a friend was helped by the charity when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and Moira says this is the cause she is now sticking with. Its here, its local and we know where the money is going. And from pancakes races to selling jams and marmalade she doesnt stop and aims to bring her total to 20,000.

It gives you great satisfaction to know that you are helping people less fortunate than yourself, she says.

But now it is her turn to take centre stage when, for one moment, the achievements of this truly remarkable octogenarian will be recognised. And you can be sure when she does stride out carrying the iconic flame her many friends at The Haven will be with her every step of the way. As many of the staff and volunteers as we can spare will be cheering Moira along the route, says Frankie. Although at this moment just where there that route will be Moira doesnt know but she hopes for something local. For now Moira is busy training as she is determined to do it on foot, unaideed. To support Moira with her training visit The Havens Facebook page or

The Olympic torch travels through Herefordshire and the Wye Valley on May 24 and 25, visiting Ledbury, Bartestree, Lugwardine, Hereford, Leominster, Monmouth, Raglan, Newport and Abergavenny.

To find out more information visit

Ian Sockett from Hereford has been nominated to carry the Olympic torch and is waiting to hear confirmation. Ian suffered from anorexia and since his recovery has completed three marathons. Obviously my passion is to try and get people to challenge their thoughts about people who suffer from eating disorders and in particular to understand that men get eating disorders too. I would like to think that my journey proves to both Joe public and those who might be currently suffering that you can beat the illness and even more so, you can go on to achieve things that once seemed impossible, he says.

A limited edition 5 coin designed by Pippa Sanderson, from Malvern, during her final year studying a BA (Hons) Graphic& Media Design at Hereford College of Arts has been chosen to commemorate the 2012 Paralympic Games.

Pippas coin, which won a competition run by the Royal Mint, has now been struck. Her design celebrates accuracy, manoeuvrability and speed. Split into four, it features a wheel for manoeuvrability, a target for accuracy, a stopwatch for speed and the face of Big Ben to represent London and time. See for more details.

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