Torchbearer Phillips Idowu 'full of emotion'


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The Independent Online

British medal hopeful Phillips Idowu was "full of emotion" today as he carried the Olympic Torch in Stratford - just a stone's throw from the Olympic Park in east London.

The triple-jumper was greeted by hundreds of excited well-wishers in Westfield, the shopping centre which thousands of ticket holders will pass through during the Games.

Idowu - who was born and raised in east London - appeared overwhelmed by the crowd's support, and tried to describe what it felt like to carry the torchon home turf.

"It's an amazing feeling. I'm full of emotion right now," he said.

"Being born, raised and schooled in east London, having the opportunity to carry the Olympic Torch in the home Games in front of my east London people... you guys have done me really proud.

"Thank you guys for coming out and hopefully in a couple of weeks' time I can make you guys proud also."

Idowu, who picked up a silver medal at the Beijing Games four years ago, is famed for his colourful haircuts, facial piercings, sweatbands and knee-high socks.

Earlier, the torch began its first full day in the host city at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, and there was a party mood as thousands turned out around the newly restored Cutty Sark clipper.

The flame started its London journey at the Greenwich Royal Observatory, across the River Thames from Canary Wharf and overlooking the site of theOlympics' equestrian events.

Natasha Sinha, 15, from Greenwich, who was nominated to carry the torch for her dedication to swimming and cross-country running, took the torch down into the equestrian arena.

It was then carried around Sir Christopher Wren's Old Royal Naval College before arriving at the Cutty Sark, which has recently undergone a £50 million renovation.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world, founder of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 1995 and a Cutty Sark trustee, ran the torch around the clipper to delighted cheers from the crowds.

The torch was later passed to soldier Private Jaco van Gass, 25, from South Africa, who carried the flame on to the stage at the Woolwich Live Site, a screen which broadcasts local news and BBC coverage of major events, sport, arts and entertainment.

Pte van Gass, who now lives in Woolwich, lost his left arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack while serving with the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan in 2009.

He also suffered a collapsed lung, punctured internal organs, loss of muscle from the upper left thigh, multiple shrapnel wounds and fractures to his knee, fibula and tibia.

Last year he successfully trekked to the North Pole for the Walking With The Wounded charity, and was part of an attempt to climb Mount Everest this year, which was aborted because of dangerous conditions.

After carrying the torch, he said: "It was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to the Games. As a dual citizen - of South Africa and Great Britain - I've got double the chance of celebrating."