Olympic torch takes a wrong turn in Bristol


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The Independent Online

The Olympic torch took a wrong turn today shortly before it crossed the Clifton Suspension Bridge in a spectacular display of fireworks.

The torch left the foggy streets of Bristol for North Somerset at 5.50am before travelling by convoy to visit Nailsea, Backwell and Flax Bourton.

But as it returned to Bristol via Nailsea the convoy took a wrong turn in Failand - delaying the relay by about 10 minutes.

Tens of thousands of people had lined the streets of Bristol to catch a glimpse of the flame.

Clifton Suspension Bridge was left suspiciously empty but all became clear when Rebecca Pantaney stepped on to the Grade I-listed structure and the loud bang of fireworks was heard.

Ms Pantaney won badminton gold at the 1998 Commonwealth Games as part of the women's team.

Gasps could be heard from the crowd as people cheered and waved Union Flags.

The display followed the torchbearer as she ran across the bridge to loud applause from spectators.

The flame was handed over on the middle of the bridge, which was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to Thomas Baker.

A Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) spokesman said that when the mistake was made no torchbearers were running and the relay was in "convoy mode".

"They missed a turning this morning between Nailsea and Failand.

"They realised straight away and rectified it.

"They were running 10 minutes late. It did not impact on any of the torchbearers.

"It was in convoy travelling from Nailsea to Failand."

The flame will be carried through 22 communities today, including Chippenham, Marlborough, Wroughton, Cirencester and Stroud.

On its way to Cheltenham, the torch will also pass through Royal Wootton Bassett, where people regularly turned out to honour the UK's war dead, until the closure of RAF Lyneham last year.

The Olympic torch will end up in the royal hands of Zara Phillips.

The Queen's granddaughter will be on horseback to carry the torch on to Cheltenham's famous racecourse.

Miss Phillips, who is married to former England rugby captain Mike Tindall, will be riding Toytown - the horse on which she won world and European titles.

Toytown, which was officially retired from eventing last year but has not competed since 2009, will parade the length of the Cheltenham finishing straight.

Miss Phillips, whose mother the Princess Royal received the Olympic flame in Greece last week, will then light a cauldron to mark the end of day five of the relay.

Outgoing Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba, 34, will also get his hands on the torch when he carries it through Swindon earlier in the day.

His midfield team-mate Josh McEachran, 19, will run in Calne.

Two Olympic gold-medallists from the 1968 Mexico City games will be taking part in the relay.

David Hemery, 67, who broke a world record when he won gold in the 400 metre hurdles, will carry the torch through Royal Wootton Bassett.

And Jane Holderness Roddam, 64, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, will join the relay in Shurdington, near Cheltenham.

The event rider won team gold for Great Britain in Mexico City.

The evening line-up at Cheltenham racecourse includes music from Labrinth, dance act Twist and Pulse, Gloucestershire Youth Jazz Orchestra and Cheltenham Youth Choir.

The 70-day relay around the UK finishes at the Olympic Stadium on July 27.

A total of 8,000 people will carry the flame on its 8,000-mile journey to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.