THE JERRY WARD TRUST FUND
London 2012 - The Olympic Torch
Many famous Olympians have become household names, Lord Seb Coe, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sir Chris Hoy, Jonathan Edwards, Dame Kelly Holmes, Fatty!  Some of those may not be immediately recognisable as Olympians.  But now, it's official!  I'm one of the privileged few who has been chosen to take part in the Olympic torch relay.  So despite my significant "previous," background and security checks have been completed, and it's time to get in training.  The wheelchair will have to be modified so that I can carry the torch without setting fire to myself, this may be a disappointment to many!  And it will undoubtedly involve serious input from human resources, the health and safety executive, risk assessments, and probably some input from the accountants too, before it goes before the Fatty Plc board, to be rubberstamped.  Then it will be all systems go!
 

When Will It Be?

My allocated part is on day 37 of the relay, Sunday 24th of June.  This will take the torch from Salford up and across the Pennines to Leeds.  My leg is close to Bradford, route details will be available soon.  So even if you're not a great fan of sport, it might be worth coming along to watch me trying to set fire to myself!  If nothing else, that would be a great publicity stunt!  Thereafter, I will be available for personal appearances, shop openings, garden fetes, barbecue lighting's, births, marriages, deaths (cremations!) bar mitzvahs etc.
 

Standby for further announcements as soon as they become available!

Until then, do you think it should be "Sir Fatty" or "Lord Fatty of Hartford", answers on a postcard!  "Chariots of Fire" could take on a whole new meaning! 
 
Stop press   31/5
The exact details will not be released by LOCOG until about one week before my leg. However, at the moment it looks like I will be at Keighley, West Yorkshire, sometime just after 1541. Hope to see lots of people there!

Stop Press 12/6

My Torchbearer uniform arrived a few hours ago along with all my details for the big day out.

I will be carrying the Olympic flame through the centre of Keighley starting at the junction of Albert Street and Skipton Road (postcode BD21 3AA, there is a Wetherspoon's pub on the corner!) and then along Skipton Road until about Strawberry Street. My start time should be 15.48 PM
 
 

Fattys Big Burn - Sunday, June 24, 2012

My replacement torchbearers uniform had arrived during the week and been tried on over my thermal skiing kit.  After all, it was the middle of summer in England, the weather forecast had been studied on an almost hourly basis in the run-up to Sunday morning.  The sky system had been programmed to record the motor racing and the England versus Italy football game - I didn't want to miss the other major sporting action of the day!  The wheelchair was fully charged, what could possibly go wrong?

The day dawned grey, cold, cloudy, raining, blustery all quite typical of an English summers day.  I was grateful that I didn't have to get to my meeting point until just after lunch.  Had I been joining Sir Bobby Charlton in Salford that would have meant a 5 AM start, so for me getting up would have started just before I went to bed the previous evening, very uncivilised.  My carers, Alenka and Keith had me ready to go in good time.  Our long list of equipment was checked and double checked, the cool-box packed with lunch, drinks and champagne, and we loaded me in the van.  We had already decided that I would go in my power chair so that I could try and self-propel myself with Sam and Alenka in attendance in case things went wrong. The one thing we weren't sure of though was whether I would be able to get into the LOCOG convoy coach, more later!

We made good progress over Saddleworth Moor and the Pennines despite the rain, and turned off the motorway around Bradford and onto our meeting point on the outskirts of Keighley.  The clouds were just beginning to break up, maybe the weather forecast was right after all.  As we approached our destination, I could see where we needed to turn off, I had checked on Google Earth, and there was an old double-decker bus with a single LOCOG coach next to it in an otherwise deserted car park.  We were in luck, it was the right place, we were just a little early (I guess Sam drives rather like his father!)  We met our convoy host Lucy, a delightful young lady who is studying at the same University as Sam, Sheffield Hallam.  The next coincidence was that our coach driver used to be in the RAF at Leuchars in Scotland where I served for four years, and where Sam was born, it was turning into more like a family day out!  It was crunch time, was I going to be able to get into the coach?  I slowly approached the ramp, which was quite short and steep, but with Sam's help behind me so the chair didn't tip over I was up and in through the door.  An immediate right turn meant I avoided the drivers cab, but I then nearly destroyed the purpose made rack which held our Olympic torches, Oops!  I then had to try and get out so that we could start our briefing.   As I reversed the wheelchair got caught on the torch rack, followed by the handrails and then the drivers cab, I was stuck fast!  Excellent!  We then had a few minutes of pushing and pulling before I was free to go back inside the coach and try and turn around to come out forwards down the steep ramp, if I toppled forwards my moment of fame would be over before I even started.  Good job Sam was big enough to steady the chair and avoid an early disaster.

Other torchbearers started to arrive and we all collected in a meeting room, the emotional atmosphere started to build quite quickly.  Several different attachments were tested on the chair (I had a feeling this might be a problem!) to provide support for the torch.  The pit crew of Lucy and Sarah were very busy with spanners and allen keys, before something suitable was established.  Unfortunately, it also made the wheelchair wider, and therefore more difficult to get in, or out, of the coach!

We were given our torch bearer numbers, in my case 111, and then told what would happen in the convoy, and at the drop-off points, and then how to conduct the "Torch Kiss" to pass the Olympic flame from one torch bearer to another.  Then it was out, and onto the bus.  It was only a short journey towards Keighley town centre, just around the corner from the High Street, where our bus stopped for a short while until the convoy appeared. During this time each of the 12 of us were asked about our stories, a wonderful few minutes listening to some very special people.  However, one thing it did was raise the level of emotions to a new height.

Before long the police motorcyclists and convoy appeared and our coach joined in and only a few moments later it was time to drop-off the first torch bearer.  There was a crescendo of noise both inside and outside the coach as everyone wished the young lady the best of luck.  In no time at all, it was my turn to get off on the High Street in Keighley where I was welcomed by thousands of people.  Trying to pick out friends, family and colleagues was virtually impossible.  It only took a short while before I was surrounded by people wanting their photo taken with the torch.  The police, unable, and in a way unwilling, to stop their enjoyment.  The reception was simply overwhelming!

As the main convoy approached the noise got even louder, and after the camera vehicle went past I was able to move to the middle-of-the-road so that the Olympic flame could be transferred to my torch, as Sam touched torches with Roger for me. As the torch was fitted into the attachment on my wheelchair, it dawned on me that I was now immensely privileged to be carrying the Olympic flame. A unique opportunity, I can't even begin to explain what it felt like.

Whilst I was still on a life-support ventilator in intensive care, unable to speak because of my tracheotomy, we had a bedside meeting with the clinical director of the spinal unit and all my family, at which point my son Sam asked "Will dad ever be able to come home".  On Sunday the 24th I was immensely proud of the fact that Sam was next to me every inch of the way as I carried the Olympic flame.  Without an awful lot of help and support, 4 1/2 years ago that would have been quite unthinkable.  

After what seemed like only a minute, with constant cheering from the crowd, it was time to hand over the flame to the next torch bearer, and after more photos we were back on the coach and on our way to the next location.  We were dropped off back at our meeting point, where the health and safety police disable the burner in everyone's torches!  Boo hiss!  Spoilsports!  For us though, the evening was far from over!

Having spent 22 months in hospital in total and 19 months as an inpatient at the Northwest spinal unit in Southport, it is only right that my torch should spend some time back there.  The staff do a wonderful job ensuring that every patient completes their rehabilitation from what is often the most traumatic of injuries in the best possible way.  This will enable them to maintain as full a life as possible, regardless of their injuries and level of disability.  One of my first jobs will be to take the torch around each of the wards at Southport.  Thereafter, I hope to go and visit several of the local schools so the young children can have the experience of being with the Olympic torch.

Prashad

Along with one of the other torchbearers from Thomas Cook, Philippa, we met with all our families at Gordon Ramsay's best Indian restaurant of 2010.  By the time I got there it had already been established that what we thought was going to be awkward, but not impossible wheelchair access, especially with my new portable ramp, was just that, impossible, I wouldn't be able to get in the restaurant!  Something of a schoolboy error!  I had already taken a certain amount of stick having chosen a vegetarian and alcohol free restaurant in the first place!  More stick was to come! 

       

Word quickly spread about the Olympic torch, and before we even had a chance to say hello to our families we were surrounded by more people wanting photos.  It was only fair though to have a few glasses (plastic cups!) of champagne on the pavement outside.  My wife had to intervene and call a halt to the photos so that we could all eat.  We reconfigured the van with the front seats swivelled around and everyone took it in turns to join me for a while eating, while still being able to enjoy the restaurant.  Bobby and Imran did a magnificent job of making sure that we missed out on nothing at all, the only interruptions were the constant requests for more photos!  Fame at last!  Was it me or the torch?  The food, company, and service were all out of this world, a remarkable end to a quite remarkable day.

Having taken my place between Sir Bobby Charlton and Lord Seb Coe in the torch relay (granted, there were one or two others as well) my emotions are still at an all-time high several days later.

 you can now reach me on youtube   at : 

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Epilogue

Some of you will not be surprised to hear that this wasn't the first time I have had the "pleasure" of a police escort. The last time was to get me from Manchester airport to the hope hospital Salford after my repatriation. I think Sam was secretly hoping that my wheelchair with not get in the coach, and he would have to drive my van with police motorcyclist outriders through red lights and roadblocks, maybe next time!!
 
The Thank You's  I am of course indebted to very many people, my family, friends, colleagues at Thomas Cook, all the staff at LOCOG torch operations, and everyone who has sent photos and video of the event. Particularly Gareth at the clockworkeye who has helped with the YouTube link and talked me through some of my stupidity at the computer! www.clockworkeye.co.uk