Jun 8 2012
Olympic torch bearer Ross McClelland
Ross McClelland carries the torch through the streets of Stranraer
CROWDS have been lining the streets of towns and villages across Scotland to welcome the Olympic flame.
The torch has wound its way to Glasgow on a 138-mile (222km) route which has taken it through communities such as Alloway and Kilmarnock in Ayrshire.
In the seaside port of Stranraer, on the south-west coast, the build-up began at dawn with music in Castle Square where bearers carrying flags of the 200 countries taking part in the London Games greeted the torch procession.
The relay set off at 6am, carried by soldier Ross McClelland from Ayr, the first person to run with the torch on Scottish soil.
The 20-year-old, who serves with A Company 2 Scots, returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan earlier this year.
He said the experience of carrying the torch was brilliant.
Crowds line the streets in Stewarton to see the torch coming past
“I’m still on a high right now. My big sister nominated me when I was in Afghanistan. I do a lot of running in the Army and she thought it would be right up my street.
“When I’m not serving overseas all I really do is running over here.”
The soldier was 19 when he was sent to Afghanistan with his company, where he faced enemy fire.
His mother, Diane, said: “I can’t tell you how proud I am. It seems such a short time since that was all happening to this. He deserves today. We all deserve it because it was such a relief getting him home.
“To see him doing this – the first in Scotland – is just fabulous. It’s fantastic. I’m so proud of him.”
Also running were Doreen Bowie, 62, the principal of Stranraer’s Wallace School of Dance, and Carol Harwood, from the Isle of Arran.
Conor McAdam carries the Olympic Flame on part of the route between Kirkoswald and Ayr
It was the second time Mrs Bowie had got her hands on the torch – she was picked to carry it off the ferry from Northern Ireland last night.
The torch was met off the boat by Scotland Office Minister David Mundell and Shona Robison, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport.
After leaving Stranraer, the torch wound its way to Cairnryan and Ballantrae. It was taken to Glasgow through Ayrshire and onwards via Lochwinnoch, Kilmacolm, Port Glasgow and Rutherglen.
In Alloway, crowds lined the streets to watch as the flame was handed over at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
Kirsty Kane, 17, from Saltcoats, carried it through the town. She was nominated for her courage and determination in dealing with cerebral palsy.
In front of the museum she passed the flame to Olympian Suzanne Otterson, 38, from Ayr, who represented Great Britain in the figure skating at the Albertville Winter Olympics in 1992.
Jell Lundstrom carries the torch during the leg from Kilmarnock to Beith
Crowds cheered and waved flags as the torch was handed over.
The crowd in Glasgow city centre grew steadily after the gates opened at 2pm and the moment of the torch’s arrival drew ever closer.
Onlookers watched dance performances from Scottish Ballet and Gaelic community groups, interspersed with countdowns to the torch’s arrival.
Indie rockers General Fiasco also took to the stage as men, women and children cheered and waved flags.
Soul-pop star Emeli Sande perfomed her best-known hits shortly before the flame arrived in George Square where the crowd was expected to reach about 16,000.
Skinny Genes singer Eliza Doolittle is the final big-name act at the free event, for which tickets were allocated in a public ballot.
Speaking before her performance, Sande, who grew up in Alford, Aberdeenshire, spoke of her joy at being back in the city where she was a student.
“It feels really exciting being back in Scotland,” said the 25-year-old.
Crowd gathers in George Square for torch event
“I studied here for about five years, so it’s so nice to come back to Glasgow. And I can feel the excitement here, so I can’t wait to get on stage.
“I’m going to be playing a short set, songs that they’ll know from the radio and from the album: high energy.
“Hopefully we’ll put on a good show for everybody. Every time I’ve performed in Glasgow, it’s always been an incredible crowd.”
The chart star will also be performing concerts when the torch travels to Inverness, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh over the coming days.
She described the experience as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I don’t think within my lifetime we’re going to be able to do this again, have the Olympics in my country, so it’s definitely something I’ll look back on and it will always be a fond memory.”
The Brits’ Critics’ Choice winner also revealed she is being given the chance to carry the torch tomorrow, at a location she is not yet able to disclose.
She only discovered she would be given the honour a few days ago when she was in the US, and described the surprise opportunity as a “real honour”.
The singer, who studied at Glasgow University for more than four years, said: “I think that’s going to be a really special moment. It’s a real honour to get to do that. I wasn’t expecting it. I can’t wait.”
Sande, one of 2012′s biggest-selling new British artists, said her involvement in the torch relay is a real source of pride for her relatives in Aberdeenshire since enthusiasm for the Olympics has always been in the family.
“I’ll definitely be watching it,” she said. “It’s always been something that my family and I have followed. My sister’s fantastic at sport, so sports and music have always been combined in our household.”
She believes people in Scotland will get behind the Olympics when they come to London next month.
“It’s such an exciting thing and you can feel the excitement throughout the country. I think we should (get behind it), and I think we will.”
The torch is touring Scotland for the next seven days, taking in some of the UK’s farthest-flung places, including Orkney and Shetland, and the Outer Hebrides.