Boat race swimmer Trenton Oldfield banned from Olympic torch route

 

The swimmer who brought the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race to a dramatic halt was today banned from the Olympic torch route and from visits to Windsor before the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Trenton Oldfield, 35, caused the annual contest on the River Thames to be stopped for around half an hour after he was spotted in the vessels' path as crews battled towards the finish.

Today the self-confessed anti-elitist swapped his wetsuit for more formal attire when he appeared before magistrates who imposed a series of strict bail conditions.

These were put in place after prosecutors referred to a website "purportedly generated" by Oldfield which set out an apparent "manifesto for civil disobedience" and allegedly sought to encourage others to "commit similar acts" to the Boat Race demonstration.

Dressed in a crumpled suit and tie, Oldfield spoke softly to confirm his name, date of birth and address at Feltham Magistrates' Court in Middlesex.

The Australian protester, who took to Twitter following his arrest to speak out against elitism, showed no emotion as he sat beside his legal team while the indictment was read out.

"You are charged, on April 7 of this year in the River Thames near Chiswick Eyot, with causing a public nuisance by swimming into the path of the University Boat Race and causing it to stop," he was told.

Oldfield entered no plea and was granted bail.

Restrictions prevent him from entering the City of Westminster on May 9 for the state opening of Parliament and forbid him from going into the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead before his next court appearance on May 23.

During this time a number of pre-Jubilee events are due to take place in the borough.

A further bail condition bans Oldfield from using or being within 100 metres of roads which form part of the Olympic torch route until the same date.

The 158th Boat Race on April 7 was labelled "possibly the most dramatic in history" by organisers after Oldfield created unprecedented disruption. It was the first time in its history that the event was disrupted by a swimmer.

This year's contest also saw an Oxford crew member break an oar and the team's bowman Alex Woods collapse after crossing the finishing line. He was later treated in hospital.

Oldfield sparked scenes of chaos when he swam towards the boats as they were neck and neck between the two and three-mile marker.

Former rower and assistant umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent was said to have alerted fellow adjudicators before the race was stopped and the swimmer, who narrowly avoided the blade of an Oxford oar, was pulled from the river. He was taken away on a police launch and arrested.

The race was restarted nearly half an hour later, with Cambridge powering on to victory.

Oldfield, who lives in a run-down block of flats in Myrdle Street, east London, later defended his anti-elitist stance online, claiming he had always "fought from within".

The demonstrator posted a series of messages the day after the race saying: "With the severe deficit in democracy new sites of protest unfortunately have had to be found" and "if its jail time, so be it".

He added: "Still waiting for someone to show me when elitism (seeing oneself above another) hasn't lead to oppression and tyranny?"

It was not the first time the Boat Race has been temporarily halted.

In 2001 the competition was stopped by the umpire just over a minute after the start, following repeated warnings to both crews to move apart and then a clash of blades for which Oxford was blamed. When the race got going, Cambridge rowed to victory.

Oldfield, who appeared relaxed during the half-hour hearing, made no comment as he left.

Chairman of the bench Alison Stone told the activist he will next appear at Isleworth Crown Court on May 23 at 10am.

PA

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