SOME of the biggest crowds in living memory turned out in Wallingford and Abingdon to give a warm welcome to the Olympic torch.
The torch was greeted in Abingdon early yesterday by about 15,000 people lining the streets eager to catch a glimpse of the historic flame.
The relay arrived in the town at about 7.40am as the bells of St Nicolas Church rang out and Abbey Brass Band kept the crowds entertained.
Deaf cancer survivor Margaret Brown, 71, was cheered and followed by crowds as she carried the torch in the final leg in Bridge Street.
Former Olympic gymnast Suzanne Dando handed the torch to Aron Steele, from Didcot, who was cheered on by classmates in Oxford Road.
The 12-year-old, of Fitzwaryn Special School in Wantage, said: “I saw loads of people that I knew and especially people from my school. I was very pleased to be part of the Olympics.”
Sue James, 46, from Carterton, was nominated to carry the torch down Oxford Road after volunteering for the Save the Children charity for more than 30 years.
She said: “I feel really honoured to be part of it. It was great. I cried the whole way. I couldn’t believe the crowds of people. It was lovely.”
Chris Harris, Larkmead School headteacher, said hundreds of schools pupils came out to see the relay come through Oxford Road.
He said: “It was an excitement. It is a moment in history and they won’t get that opportunity again in their lifetime.”
Meanwhile council officials estimated up to 10,000 people gathered in Wallingford town centre to wave on the Olympic Flame after it arrived shortly before 8.30am.
Among the torchbearers in Wallingford were celebrity chef Raymond Blanc and Private Patrick Burns, 25, from Bicester, of 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment.
Mr Blanc said: “It is raining but everyone is happy, the torch brings people together.”
After carrying the flame, Private Burns, who lost his right leg below the knee in January last year when he stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, said: “This was a fantastic moment for me and I felt
absolutely fine carrying the torch.”
As the torch relay arrived in the town centre, a Puma helicopter from RAF Benson flew overhead. The torch left Crowmarsh shortly before 9am to be taken by
bus along the A4130 to Nettlebed and Henley.
Other torch bearers in Wallingford and Crowmarsh were Dale Kamarata, David Earle, William Anderson, Christian Bravo, Sarah Rose and Fiona Grist.