Category Archives: Olympic Games

Music, art and sport meet to mark Olympics and Paralympics

Walsall Aboretum Bandstand

As part of the Walsall for 2012 celebrations tied into the Olympic and Paralympic games, Walsall Council is holding an exciting and fun-for-all event in Walsall Arboretum to mark the conclusion of the London 2012 Paralympics.

The event, which has much to offer music, arts and sports fans, takes place on Sunday 9 September and includes both a Bandstand Marathon & Walsall Sportsfest in the town’s premier park.

There are still some vacant stalls available. Organisers would especially like to hear from holistic/arts & crafts/alternative therapy practitioners.There is no cost to the stallholder, they just need to contact Craig Vincent at  azalea.events.walsall@gmail.com or 07970 785 686.

Aspects of the event include:

    • Live music at the refurbished Arboretum Bandstand.
    • Artists performances.
    • Craft stalls.
    • Family activities.
    • Sports demonstrations and have-a-go activities.

LIVE MUSIC

The music line-up from 12 noon – 6pm includes:

12.00 noon   Walsall Gilbert & Sullivan Society

12.45pm  Chuck Micallef, Dave Luke & Nick Tomson

1.45pm   Tony Barrett Band

 2.30pm  Phoenix Brass Band

3.30pm  Aziz 

4.30pm  Stems

5.30pm  Arbor Lights

ARTS IN THE GALLERY GARDEN

There will also be a chance to visit the new Gallery Garden in the refurbished Arboretum, and meet artists with activities as follows between 2pm – 6pm:

    • Graham Jones – wood sculptor
    • Ron & Julie Thompson – sculptors
    • Annie Bowden – community artist
    • Walsall Knitting Circle – simple cake decorating
    • Elizabeth Knight

SPORTSFEST ACTIVITIES

There will be opportunities to try a wide variety of sports and physical activities; you can even do an induction on the day for Walsall’s Children’s Fit Zone gyms.

Get your bike checked and see a BMX demonstration.

Talk to Bootcamp fitness experts.

ADMISSION TO ALL EVENTS IS FREE

No ticket required!

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Keep track of Walsall’s golden paralympian

Eleanor Simmonds 2008
Eleanor Simmonds 2008

While most of us are already watching the London 2012 Olympics, Walsall’s double gold medal paralympian swimmer Eleanor Simmonds will be focusing on just one thing – being the best she can be.

Her life currently revolves around training and preparing for the competition – to the point where she is will soon be in the holding camp in Manchester with British Swimming before arriving at Olympic Village – and not long to go till the start of the Paralympic Games on 29 August.

During this time the Aldridge 17-year-old’s routine cannot, understandably, be disrupted. But her parents have agreed to let Walsall Council have an insight into their daughter’s thoughts and feelings throughout this exciting time.

The Council will be carrying regular updates on Eleanor’s preparation and progress on its special website at www.walsallfor2012.co.uk and plan to bring residents Eleanor’s reactions via her mum and dad throughout the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Eleanor, who won gold medals in Beijing in 2008 in the 100m and 400m freestyle swimming events also set a new world record in the 400m freestyle.

She also received an MBE from the Queen in the New Years Honours List in 2009 and was the youngest person to receive this honour, also becoming the first swimmer to break a world record at the London Aquatics Centre in March 2012 in the 200m individual medley.

Eleanor was born with achondroplasia, commonly known as dwarfism.

Steve Simmonds said: “Eleanor sums everything up when she says “I just want to make sure that I’ve got to the end of my race being the best I can be.

“While she would obviously love to win more gold medals her main motivation is knowing she’s in peak condition and is pleased with her performance. And that’s all anyone can ask of themselves really.

“There is a great expectation of all the competitors this year as London is hosting the competitions and the British hopefuls are on their home soil.

“We are grateful that so many of Eleanor’s family, friends and supporters are able to attend the Paralympic Games – as are the families of all those taking part – because travelling to Beijing and Rio and places like that just isn’t possible for all.

“Eleanor says it will make a big difference to the atmosphere, knowing all your friends and family are actually in the crowd.

“There’s definitely a great enthusiasm now the games are in London and we’re all excited about the weeks to come.”

The Torchbearers’ Tales – Olympic reflections of Bloxwich and Leamore

A Torchbearers' Eye View of Bloxwich High Street

Introduction

Today is the day. One hour from now, there will be a massive opening ceremony in London shown live around the world on TV in High Definition.  The Olympic Games – known as London 2012 this time around – are being hosted by the United Kingdom for the first time since 1948.

People have all kinds of expectations from an event this big.  Many will be exceeded, others may be disappointed, some will undoubtedly be agitated and even up in arms – but despite some controversy, this event is one which cannot easily be ignored, especially when it goes out of its way to come to your own city, town or village.

And that’s what happened, in effect, just before 12 noon on Saturday 30th June 2012 when the Olympic Torch Relay rolled into Bloxwich, its first port of call in West Midlands before wending its way across the borough via Walsall and Willenhall.

I have to admit I wondered beforehand what the response might be from the people of Bloxwich.  Would it be a damp squib? Greeted with polite indifference? The subject of protests? In the end, I was amazed by the astonishing public turnout of as many as 10,000 souls to see the torch go by, carried by several people, some of whom had travelled around the globe to visit Bloxwich and Leamore.

Thierry Laurent from the USA is surrounded as he steps off the bus onto Bloxwich High Street.
Thierry Laurent from the USA is surrounded as he steps off the bus onto Bloxwich High Street.

Imagine that for a moment, if you will, and wonder how they must have felt, strangers in a strange land, unsure of the welcome they might have received; worried perhaps about protestors, or worse yet, whether anyone would turn up at all.  Imagine being dropped off a bus on a foreign High Street thousands of miles from home and being surrounded – or not.

Well, our guests on 30th June need not have worried.  Their way was prepared for them, and the welcome they received was immense as the rain swept on its way north and was followed by sunshine and smiling faces.  They were welcomed with open arms – and a myriad of cameras!

Open arms and cameras at the ready!
Open arms and cameras at the ready!

And it seems to me that a major part of the true Olympic spirit – nothing to do with the rampant commercialism and petty politics that so often seems to come to the fore – is about reaching out to others in peace instead of war, something this country has had quite enough of, thank you.  In many ways the goodwill generated is far more significant than the sporting achievements, and we should all be thankful for that.

I thought after writing the Bloxwich Telegraph report on the Torch Relay that it would be interesting to find out what the Bloxwich and Leamore Torchbearers thought of their visit to our home, and what memories they might take back with them, whether they would travel near or far.  Memories to last a lifetime, made in moments of flame and wonder.  Here they are.

The Torchbearers’ Tales

Olympic Torch

I have tried to contact all of the Torchbearers on our leg of the relay, asking them if they would like to comment on their visit to Bloxwich and Leamore and perhaps say something about themselves.  Not all have responded yet, so I have therefore published below the comments I have received so far, and will add others if and when they are received.  They are published in order of distance travelled to Bloxwich!

For more general information about all of the Bloxwich and Leamore Torchbearers, please view our previously published page via this link.

Kris Richardson of Bloxwich  

Distance travelled: 0 Miles!

The first Bloxwich Torchbearer, Kris Richardson, receives the flame (courtesy Gary S. Crutchley)
The first Bloxwich Torchbearer, Kris Richardson, receives the flame (courtesy Gary S. Crutchley).

Kris’s location came as a bit of a surprise, as the official information was simply that he was from Walsall.  As it turns out, we are delighted to reveal that the first Bloxwich Torchbearer is actually a resident of Bloxwich, so that should please those who were wondering why no Bloxwich Torchbearers were present on the day!

Kris had this to say about himself and his experience as an Olympic Torchbearer:

“I am 16 years old, and have Cerebral Palsy.

“I grew up just down the road from Bloxwich in Coalpool, but now live in Bloxwich itself.

“I was put forward by Julie Hykin, who works for Walsall Health Transition Team. When I started working with the team I was very shy, withdrawn and isolated. I had no self confidence due to being bullied at school because I have a disability.

“I have spent the last 2 years attending all the workshops, and become more confident. This confidence allowed me to change schools and begin trusting people again.  This new-found confidence allowed me to take part in a short disability awareness film entitled ‘What you lookin’ at?’

“It also gave me the confidence to accept the responsibility of being a Torchbearer, it was a huge honour and I am very proud to have been able to take part, especially in my home town.

“I think the people of Bloxwich should be proud of the turnout that they gave the Olympic Torch, it was a great day for everyone.

“Many thanks again for getting in touch.”

Kris Richardson

Callum Pattinson of Stoke-on-Trent  

Distance travelled: 28 miles

Callum Pattinson met the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall at the Party in Bloxwich Park
Callum Pattinson met the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall at the Party in Bloxwich Park.

Callum Pattinson comes from our old County, Staffordshire, so it’s nice to have him represent the county  in this way.  He was one of two Torchbearers to visit Leamore, and took on the first half of Somerfield Road.

I met him after the event, at the Party in the Park, in Bloxwich Park – where he also met the Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Dennis Anson and his Mayoress Mrs Kate Anson.

Callum had this to say about his visit to Leamore:

“I thought it was ace, it was an honour and a privilege to be a Torchbearer.

“Lots of people came with me and even two of my teachers from school turned up, Mr Wilkinson & Mr  Figgis, it was great.

“I thought the people of Leamore were brilliant. It was a fantastic day that I will always remember and I have an Olympic Torch to keep.”

Callum Pattinson

Callum’s proud mother, Tracy, went on to say:

“Can I just add that Callum is using his torch to fundraise for our local hospice and cancer unit which helped Callum’s grandma (my mum) whilst she was ill.

“He’s taking his torch to local schools, businesses and police/fire stations and is asking for donations in exchange to be photographed with his torch.

We are all incredibly proud of him.”

Editor’s Note: If anyone would like to donate to the hospice and cancer unit for which Callum is fundraising, I would be pleased to pass on your contact details via his mother. Please email: bloxwichtelegraph@gmail.com

Giles Birt of Shrewsbury   

Distance travelled: 32 miles

Giles Birt running in Bloxwich High Street (courtesy Giles Birt)
Giles Birt running in Bloxwich High Street (courtesy Giles Birt).

Giles travelled from another neighbouring County, Shropshire.  He was one of two Torchbearers I was able to photograph personally, as he passed the Olympic Flame on to Thierry Laurent on Bloxwich High Street, by the entrance to Church Street (see below).

Giles is an active sportsman and is closely associated with the history of the modern Olympics, being Chairman of the Wenlock Olympian Society since 2008.  He also has business connections with Bloxwich.

Giles said this of his experience in visiting Bloxwich as a Torchbearer:

“It was such a special occasion and it goes without saying I was extremely honoured to carry the torch.

“The atmosphere on the High Street was immense, with both the Police escort team and the other sponsors telling me that it was such a fantastic leg to run.

“I am in fact no stranger to Bloxwich, working as I do for Lowe & Fletcher Limited with our plating operation, Lowe & Fletcher (Metal Finishing) Limited which has been established for many years in Fryers Road on Leamore Industrial Estate.

“I shall certainly never look at Bloxwich High Street the same again and I can’t think there will be a more generous reception for the Torch throughout its journey.

“Thank you for chronicling the events and thanks to the people of Bloxwich for making it such a celebration.”

Giles Birt

Editors Note:  Giles attached a post-script which will be of interest to many:

“PS As a measure of the inspirational power of the Torch I have already committed to making it a trio of Olympic Challenges for a trio of Charities, with two marathons to run – firstly in Much Wenlock, (birthplace of the modern Olympic movement): the Wenlock Olympian marathon (8th July) followed by the Athens Classic marathon (the original course ending in the 1896 Olympic stadium) on 11th November.

“The Charities I have chosen to support are:

  1. Help for Heroes                      http://www.helpforheroes.org.uk
  2. Severn Hospice                       http://www.severnhospice.org.uk
  3. Jiashan Charity Association (a Charity association in China close to our factory there where funds will be directed to support disadvantaged children).

“I have started a Virgin Money Giving page which has a more information and is set up to receive the Help for Heroes and Severn Hospice donations. The link is: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GilesBirt. Donations to the Chinese charity will need to be made direct to me c/o Lowe & Fletcher Limited, Westwood Granary, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, WV16 5LP and I will take them out to China later in the year. (Cheques payable to Lowe & Fletcher Limited : Jiashan Charity Assoc.)”

Chris Bridgman of Nantwich 

Distance travelled: 41 miles

Chris Bridgman on board the Torch Relay Bus with boy band 'The Wanted' (courtesy Chris Bridgman)
Chris Bridgman on board the Torch Relay Bus with boy band ‘The Wanted’ (courtesy Chris Bridgman).

Chris Bridgman is the manager of the Wingate Centre in Nantwich, Cheshire, and is home of The Wingate Special Children’s Trust.

The centre exists to enrich the lives of children and young people with physical and learning disabilities. The centre offers specialist accommodation and a fully fitted gymnasium.

Chris had this to say about his run as a Torchbearer in Bloxwich:

“The reception we all received on the Saturday from the residents of Bloxwich and visitors was phenomenal. As we drove along the route to our various drop-off points you could not but be moved by sheer volume of spectators lining the A34.

“The extent to which residents had decorated their houses and themselves added to the carnival atmosphere. With true British Grit everyone appeared determined to enjoy and savour the moment whatever the weather and were eventually rewarded  with what you may just call a reasonable summers day!

“The residents of Bloxwich and Walsall made what was a very memorable day even more spectacular and will long live on in my memory.

“As a Torchbearer you are carried along by the well-oiled machine of the procession and do not fully appreciate the event in its entirety. You can only appreciate the groundswell of goodwill and support as you first wait for ‘the kiss’ to transfer the flame and as you travel along your route and in this regard they gave this in abundance!

“Thank you Bloxwich and Walsall!!!”

Chris Bridgman

Thierry Laurent of Roswell, USA 

Distance Travelled: 4,108 Miles

And Thierry Laurent is on his way to Leamore
And Thierry Laurent is on his way to Leamore!

Thierry comes from Roswell, near Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States of America (no, not the Roswell famous for space aliens, that’s in New Mexico!).  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about 4 years ago.

Thierry works for IHG, which is a UK based company and official hotel service provider for the London 2012 games, who had the opportunity to nominate a number of employees to participate via a global nomination process. In many years at IHG he has always supported the Make a Wish Foundation, and now more recently he has become a member of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Thierry is very thankful to IHG for the opportunity they gave him to come to Bloxwich, which he says was a moment he will never forget.

He was also the Torchbearer I met first of all, as he was getting ready to receive the flame from Giles Birt.

Thierry was keen to say this about his experience as a Bloxwich Torchbearer:

“I have to admit that the entire experience was truly amazing.  I was completely overwhelmed at the reception by the people in Bloxwich as I stepped off the bus.

“At first, I was stunned at how many people came out in the pouring rain to see the torch run.  It was at that point that I fully understood the impact this event had on the people of Bloxwich.  A great honour for all of us, not just for me, the Torchbearer.

“I only wish that I would have had more time to spend with the crowd pre and post run.  Especially post run.  Would have been nice to have a pint or two with a few people to celebrate.  There were so many people who wanted photos with the torch, and I hope that everyone had an opportunity to do so.  If not, I’d be more than happy to come back and share some stories with everyone over drinks!

“I have to add that I am extremely thankful to my wife, Jill, and our 20 month old (fraternal) twin boys for making the trek with me all the way to Bloxwich.  I love them dearly.  A special thanks to my mom for coming as well.”

Thierry Laurent

 

Tanya Fouche of Johannesburg, South Africa

Distance travelled: 5,698 miles

Leamore Torch Bearers Tanya Fouche and Callum Pattinson (courtesy Alan Hough)
Leamore Torch Bearers Tanya Fouche and Callum Pattinson (courtesy Alan Hough)

Tanya comes from Johannesburg in the Republic of South Africa.  She has the distinction of being the Torchbearer who has travelled furthest to meet us, in this case in Leamore!

She was also the last on our leg, before the relay went into convoy mode – destination Walsall town centre.

This is Tanya’s Torchbearer’s Tale:

“Arriving in Birmingham on Friday afternoon after travelling for 19 hours the reality that I was finally in England to carry the Olympic torch suddenly hit home.  I had always dreamed of taking part in the Olympic games as a child and this was suddenly the realisation of a lifelong dream!  Although I must say much of the day felt like a dream because it was too good to be true!

“I had followed the Olympic torch relay on the internet and had seen many exciting photos, but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced in Bloxwich!  As we drove along the road in the Olympic bus, there were people standing in the pouring rain happily smiling and cheering for us – I was amazed by the spirit that these people were showing in the rain as well as by their excitement to see the torch.

“One of the most touching moments for me was when I got off the bus [in Somerfield Road, Leamore] – the crowd went wild!  They received me as if I was a celebrity in their own community and were cheering and bustling to take photos with me.  (If you watch episodes of Idols when the finalists go home to visit their own towns and are welcomed as hero’s you will begin to understand how I felt!)

“There were so many elderly people who kept telling me that this would be their last opportunity to see the Olympic Torch and it was then that I realised what a great honour it was to have been selected for this task.  A real highlight for me was seeing the meeting of old and young – so many grandparents were out in the street with their grandchildren teaching them all about the significance of the Olympic Torch.

“It was clearly demonstrated to me how great the communities of Bloxwich and Leamore really are – big smiles, words of encouragement and literally lots of love were shown to me!

“Having being selected to carry the torch because of my work with children, I was especially moved by the little children with their home made torches out to see the real thing!

“When my torch was lit [from Callum Pattinson’s torch] and I took off down the road, the cheers were deafening and it was a moment in my life I will never forget.  The cheers continued for the entire leg of my relay and the crowd seemed to swell the

further down the road I got!  I have never felt so honoured to do anything before.  For the entire time down the road the crowds cheered and waved and created an atmosphere that made me laugh and cry all at the same time!

“So many people have thanked me for carrying the torch through Bloxwich and Leamore, but I am the one who must say thank you.  Thank you to the hundreds of people who lined the streets to welcome and encourage a stranger to their home.  But thank you especially for giving me the honour of sharing this momentous moment with a community that clearly understand that the Olympic Torch represents the coming together of the world where we are united for a time as equals.

“Lastly, I hope that every time the Bloxwich and Leamore community think of the Olympic Torch that passed through their streets, that they will be reminded to pray for the children in Africa.  SO many children are abandoned and alone on our continent due to various circumstances – war, poverty and Aids being the chief contributors.  Many people think they can do nothing to make a difference, but just your prayers will make more of a difference than you will ever realise!

“I will carry the love of Bloxwich and Leamore back to Africa with me and always be reminded to share it thanks to the Olympic Torch relay.”

Tanya Fouche

Editor’s note: I asked Tanya if she would like to recommend a charity that helps children in Africa, and she said: “I have worked with a number of homes, but if there is an opportunity to gain some visibility for any organisation, I would love for people to look at the work The Salvation Army is doing in Africa – they have a number of Children’s Homes and are doing some amazing work in South Africa and Africa
in general.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE TORCHBEARERS

If you would like to find out more about the Bloxwich and Leamore Olympic Torchbearers as a whole, including those from whom no comments have yet been received, please check out the page dedicated to this information, which you can read via this link.

THANKS!

My thanks go to Kate Goodall at Walsall Council, who helped with contact details, to Ian Morton-Jones of Walsall Council for advice, and of course to Walsall Flickr Group member Gary Crutchley, Alan Hough (uncle of Callum Pattinson) and Torchbearers Giles Birt and Chris Bridgman for additional photographs.

Particular thanks go to all of the Torchbearers for coming to see us in Bloxwich and Leamore, for their kind comments and for their help in compiling this feature.

I wish them, on behalf of the people of Bloxwich, Leamore and Blakenall Heath, who did us proud on Torch Relay Day, the very best for the future – and I hope some of them come back one day, perhaps as Thierry Laurent suggests, for a pint in one of our famous Bloxwich pubs!

And as for the London 2012 Olympic Games themselves – Go Team GB!

Stuart Williams

Call to support Walsall’s golden girl as Olympic opener beckons

Eleanor Simmonds 2008

With the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony almost here and the Paralympic Games on the horizon, Walsall’s Mayor is urging residents to get behind borough golden girl Eleanor Simmonds MBE and help make this a year to remember.

Swimmer Eleanor, who won two gold medals in Beijing in 2008, has her first competition in the Paralympic Games on Saturday 1 September.

She is also competing on Monday 3 September, Tuesday 4 September and Saturday 8 September and her life has to completely revolve around her training schedule from hereon in.

Eleanor, who won her medals in the 100m and 400m freestyle swimming events also set a new world record in the 400m freestyle.

The 17-year-old, who received an MBE from the Queen in the New Years Honours List in 2009 and was the youngest person to receive this honour, also became the first swimmer to break a world record at the London Aquatics Centre in March 2012 in the 200m individual medley.

The Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Dennis Anson, said: “We’re all looking forward to the Olympics, marvelling at the opening ceremony and cheering on Team GB but here in Walsall we have our very own golden girl to support in the Paralympic Games that follow.

“Eleanor is a brilliant example to our young people with disabilities in the borough as she shows them how determination, a positive attitude and a desire to achieve can make the most amazing things happen.

“She is also an ambassador for young people full stop – many of whom may feel inspired to make something of their lives and follow their dreams after seeing her in action.

“This remarkable young lady is the proud owner of two gold medals already and has her sights set on gold again in London.

“I’m sure we’ll all be glued to our televisions and radios cheering her on and, whatever the result, Eleanor is a clear winner in our eyes.

“This year is a special one for so many reasons – we’ve had the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic Torch in Walsall and now the Olympics and Paralympic Games, 2012 is really going to be a year to remember for us all.”

Eleanor, whose family home is in Aldridge, was born with achondroplasia, commonly known as dwarfism.

It’s curtain up for the Olympics at Mossley Youth Centre!

Olympic Sports

An Olympic themed community open day on Mossley Estate, Bloxwich, will provide local people with a curtain raiser to the start of the big day this Friday (27 July 2012).

Staff, volunteers, young leaders and partners have joined forces to organise the celebration at Mossley Youth Centre from 12 noon on Friday – ahead of the big opening day of London 2012.

Everyone in the area is welcome to drop in to the centre in Sneyd Lane, Mossley,  between 11am and 4pm and take part in a host of free Olympic themed events.

Local police are organising inflatable football,  a pool tournament, rip tag rugby, rounders, basketball, table tennis and other team games.

And for the less energetic there will be face painting, arts and crafts, manicures and hand massages , bric a brac stall, information from a range of partners and plenty of refreshments to keep everyone cool.

Partners involved in the day include Walsall Police, Black Country UTC, NHS mental health services, the childrens centre and local residents.

Portfolio holder for children’s services at Walsall Council, Councillor Rachel Andrew said:

“I hope as many local people as possible attend what promises to be a great afternoon’s entertainment.

“Excitement is mounting for the start of the Olympic Games and the open day will be a great opportunity for young people to have some fun, showcase the great work going on at the youth centre and build positive relationships with the local community.”

For further information contact Suzanne Snape on 07939 033389.

Walsall North MP quizzes G4S boss in Select Committee

David Winnick, MP.

The House of Commons today saw humiliating scenes in the latest Select Committee session as members, including respected Walsall North MP David Winnick, took turns to tear strips off G4S chief executive Nick Buckles.

Mr Buckles is the highly paid boss (£825,000) of the highly profitable private security firm with 660,000 employees,  making it the world’s third largest employer.   It has over £600 million worth of Home Office contracts, including prisons and some privatised police back office staff, as well as NHS contracts.

He was appearing before the committee cap in hand to account for the company’s disastrous handling of their preparations for London 2012 Olympics security, including a predicted shortfall of more than 3,000 trained staff.

Buckles candidly admitted that he should never have signed the contract to provide security for the now-imminent Olympics, as MPs lined up to brand him as “incompetent” and “amateurish”.

Labour MP David Winnick, who has served our constituency since 1979 and is often seen about Bloxwich and district when not in the House, said to Buckles: “It’s a humiliating shambles for the company isn’t it?”

Shamefaced, Buckles replied: “I cannot disagree with you.”

Buckles later stated that he learned of the problems filling vacancies in the huge security team on 3 July, but only told the Olympic Security Board on 11 July.

The G4S boss further admitted that he could not even guarantee that ‘security’ personnel would turn up on the first day of the games and that his skin had in effect been saved by last-minute police and military support, despite many of these dedicated public servants facing potential redundancy and reductions in pay due to swingeing government cuts and pension changes.

Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the committee, put it to the CEO that Buckles could not give the committee the assurances it sought.  Buckles admitted “I can’t, no.”

Vaz went on to ask the G4S boss if he would waive the firm’s £57 million management fee as well as the £50 million loss it would now be making on the contract, but despite later telling MPs he was “deeply disappointed and embarrassed” by the failure to satisfy the contract, he was clearly insufficiently embarrassed to acknowledge the fact financially, insisting that he would not.

Mr Vaz was aghast at this, saying “Why? You haven’t managed. I find that astonishing.”

Buckles was subsequently reminded by the cross-party Select Committee of his appearance in an interview at the weekend, during which didn’t seem to even be sure whether Olympic games security staff needed to be able to speak fluent English to work there.

The G4S boss had to admit he didn’t know what ‘fluent English’ meant, and this resulted in mocking laughter from committee members.

During the session, emails from G4S employees were read out, complaining of harsh treatment by the firm, being made to pay for uniforms and training and being kept uninformed about when they would be required to work at the games.

Mr Winnick struck home again at this point, saying to Buckles sardonically “It doesn’t sound like a caring and well-managed operation does it?”

Coalition Home Secretary Theresa May, who also has questions to answer about when she knew of the G4S failings, is to be interviewed by the committee in September, after the Olympic games have concluded.

Olympic Torch ignites fun day for Bloxwich!

Giles Birt of Shrewsbury (left) passes the Olympic Flame to Thierry Laurent of Roswell, Atlanta, USA
Giles Birt (left) passes the Olympic Flame to Thierry Laurent.

Day forty-three in the London 2012 Olympic Games Torch Relay – Saturday 30 June – could have been just any old day, but instead this was to be a very a special day for Bloxwich, Leamore – and of course Walsall and Willenhall!

So it was that this day’s part of the relay, which began at Olympia in Greece and ultimately ends in London, where the final torch will light the Olympic Cauldron to start the games, began on a much more significant note – with the first torch of the day being carried to mark national Armed Forces Day by war hero Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, VC, from the steps of the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire. Then travelling via Lichfield, Tamworth and the A5 to join the A34 at Churchbridge (Cannock), it was to be all uphill from there to Bloxwich, via Great Wyrley and Newtown.

Every few hundred yards the flame was passed on to another torch, each carried by a new torchbearer and surrounded by a convoy of official, police and sponsors vehicles, until at 12 noon the relay reached the border of Bloxwich, Walsall Metropolitan Borough, and West Midlands, all marked by our very own boundary post on the A34, and then as the final bearer from Staffordshire entered our ‘airspace’, the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay became part of our own history.

Police were ready to pick up parked cars if need be!
Police were ready to pick up parked cars if need be!

At 10am the torch route had become a no parking zone from the Bloxwich boundary onward, with no cars permitted to park along the route all day. Had anyone made that error, they could easily have been towed away, as evidenced by warnings beforehand and the presence of two towing low-loaders! But as far as we know there were no problems, along the Bloxwich route at least.

The Bloxwich Telegraph’s editor, Stuart WIlliams (yours truly!), was out and about early to suss out the route for photography, and had the pleasure of catching up with a small group of volunteers including a local councillor and members of Bloxwich Business Partnership and Bloxwich Carnival Committee, who as you can see from the picture below were busy climbing up poles and tying on red, white and blue ribbon and balloons along the route!

Decorating the route, Terry Bate (left), Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick (up the pole!), Debbie Jones and her daughter and son
Decorating the route, Terry Bate (left), Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick (up the pole!), Debbie Jones and her daughter and son.

Some of the shops along High Street also had decorated windows, some retained from the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Particularly notable for its appropriately international flavour was the Black Country Polish Shop, which had not only been decorated with flags but had sprouted its own novel Olympic Torch!

The Black Country Polish Shop sprouted a torch and flags for the day!
The Black Country Polish Shop sprouted a torch and flags for the day!

Meantime, preparations were being made for entertainments and fun activities outside Bloxwich CE Primary School (the National!) and All Saints Church, as well as in Bloxwich Park for the ‘Party in the Park’ and sporting events organised on behalf of the local community by Walsall Council staff working with local organisations and others. Bunting was everywhere, complemented with flags, balloons and more!

Getting ready for Oympic fun at The National School!
Getting ready for Oympic fun at The National School!

By the time I had returned to assume my chosen spot ready for photographing the torch relay convoy (on the High Street by the entrance to Church Street), crowds had already begun to gather, a brief but heavy shower or two not having put many off, and by the time the convoy had arrived at the Bloxwich boundary post, thousand of local people of all ages were lining the length of High Street as many as ten deep in places! A torrential shower then swept down the High Street, but thankfully The Bloxwich Telegraph’s news camera (aka ‘The Beast’) is waterproof, so we were able to ride it out for about ten minutes, and it was all fun in the sun from then on.

It was here that I had the pleasure, while waiting for the torch to arrive, to meet many fine Bloxwich folk, and take their pictures, as you can see below and in the Flickr album (see Flickr link at bottom of page for many more).  Please also note that one or two photographs shown here have also kindly been supplied by other photographers, who have been credited where appropriate, and I thank them for that courtesy.

Annette Hunt (centre) and Bradly and Faith Bough show off Lionel the Lion who is raising funds for New Cross Hospital, in Church St, famed for the legendary escaped Bloxwich Lion
Annette Hunt (centre) and Bradly and Faith Bough show off Lionel the Lion who is raising funds for New Cross Hospital, in Church St, famed for the legendary escaped Bloxwich Lion!
Sue Keough (seated) celebrates with granddaughter Tia Keough aged 10, from Mossley
Sue Keough (seated) celebrates with granddaughter Tia Keough aged 10, from Mossley.
Jenny King of Bloxwich with her daughter Grace Kent, age 6, enjoying some rare summer sun while waiting for the torch
Jenny King of Bloxwich with her daughter Grace Kent, age 6, enjoying some rare summer sun while waiting for the torch.
Beavers of the 2nd Bloxwich Scouts are ready to do their best when the Olympic Torch arrives
Beavers of the 2nd Bloxwich Scouts are ready to do their best when the Olympic Torch arrives!
Police outriders escorting the Olympic Torch Relay herald the convoy's approach
Police outriders escorting the Olympic Torch Relay herald the convoy’s approach.

Several torchbearers had been assigned in advance to Bloxwich and Leamore. In Bloxwich Christopher Bridgeman, aged 62,  from Nantwich, was all set to run from the vicinity of Wallington Heath. James Dowdall, 32, lives in Telford but is the son-in-law of a Walsall Council worker. Kris Richardson, 16, was the most local runner, from Walsall. Prakash Pillai, aged 41, came all the way from Lusaka, in Zambia, Africa. Seety Naidoo, from Rose Hill (Mauritius, not Willenhall!), is 45.  Giles Birt of Shrewsbury, 49, came to Bloxwich to pass the Olympic flame to Thierry Laurent, 43, who has his home in Roswell, Georgia, USA.  Mr Laurent was one of two torchbearers this reporter had the privilege of meeting personally and welcoming to Bloxwich.

The other, on the Leamore leg (Somerfield Road from High Street to Green Lane) was young Callum Pattinson, aged 14, from Stoke on Trent – I caught up with him later at the Party in the Park (Bloxwich Park, off High Street).  Finally Tanya Fouche, 35, of Johannesburg, was last but not least, all the way from South Africa!

The first Bloxwich Torchbearer, Kris Richardson of Walsall, receives the flame on Stafford Rd (courtesy Gary S. Crutchley)
The first Bloxwich Torchbearer, Kris Richardson of Walsall, receives the flame on Stafford Rd (courtesy Gary S. Crutchley).

For more information on the Bloxwich and Leamore Olympic Torch Bearers, see our page about them via this link.

Thierry Laurent of Roswell, Georgia, USA steps of the relay bus at Church Street
Thierry Laurent of Roswell, Georgia, USA steps of the relay bus at Church Street.

Before the convoy was due to arrive, Mr Laurent was dropped off by the torch relay tour bus at the entrance to Church Street at five past 12 noon, in plenty of time, and he was immediately surrounded by excited and welcoming crowds, many hoping to have their photo taken with him! He looked a little surprised and bewildered at first, but soon warmed to a fine old Bloxwich welcome.

Mr Laurent is surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers
Mr Laurent is surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers.

Around this time, the bells began to be rung to mark the occasion at All Saints Church, just across the road.   Visitors to the church and waiting members of the public nearby had already been enjoying musical entertainment from a gazebo in the churchyard, where a mini fun day was well under way.

A couple of minutes after his arrival three massive vehicles promoting sponsors of the Olympic games arrived, including Coca Cola, Samsung and Lloyds TSB, the former taking the high-tech approach and the latter travelling in a modified vintage American bus!

The Coca Cola truck
The Coca Cola truck.
The Samsung truck
The Samsung truck.
The Lloyds TSB vintage bus
The Lloyds TSB vintage bus.

Just after 12.18pm the previous runner, Mr Giles Birt, arrived at Church Street carrying the Olympic Flame on his torch (see top photo), and after a few moments, with some assistance and to the sound of resounding Bloxwich cheers and thunderous applause, this was ceremonially passed on to Mr Laurent’s own torch, and he took up the relay, running towards Leamore via High Street and Somerfield Road, where he was due to pass on the flame to Callum Pattinson just past the junction with Somerfield Road.

And Thierry Laurent is on his way to Leamore
And Thierry Laurent is on his way to Leamore!

Callum in turn passed the flame on to Tanya Fouche just outside the Grosvenor Park football ground, and Ms Fouche completed her run just before the Green Lane/Leamore Lane crossroads.

Leamore Torch Bearers Tanya Fouche and Callum Pattinson (courtesy Alan Hough)
Leamore Torch Bearers Tanya Fouche and Callum Pattinson (courtesy Alan Hough)
Olympic Torchbearer Callum Pattinson from Stoke-on-Trent later met up with the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall in Bloxwich Park.
Olympic Torchbearer Callum Pattinson from Stoke-on-Trent later met up with the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall in Bloxwich Park.

After that, the Convoy disappeared up Green Lane to continue the relay in Walsall town centre, but that is another story.  But not quite, for it was at this point that I met up with the Allport and Smith families, who had gone out of their way to prepare their own welcome for the torch – to Leamore, their home of many years!  What great people they were, good sports all – as you can see from the photographs!

Leamore welcomes the Olympic Torch Front Toni, Helen and Brenda Allport, Glenys, Jody and Brian Smith and back Michael Horler, Suzanne and Nicholas Smith
Leamore welcomes the Olympic Torch! L to R Front: Toni, Helen and Brenda Allport, Glenys, Jody and Brian Smith. Back: Michael Horler, Suzanne and Nicholas Smith.

There was still, of course. the fun going on back in Bloxwich Park, so after grabbing some chips from Scoffs on the way back down High Street, this reporter went on to cover some of the activities, stalls, and – not heard in the park for decades – live music, at the Party in the Park!

Partying in the Park - the Russon Dance Academy
Partying in the Park – the Russon Dance Academy.
The excellent pop band Bella Diem play to an appreciative audience
The excellent pop band Bella Diem play to an appreciative audience.
Juggling Jim teaches his circus skills to a young apprentice
Juggling Jim teaches his circus skills to a young apprentice…
You put your right leg out on the St Giles Walsall Hospice stall
You put your right leg out on the St Giles Walsall Hospice stall!
The Walsall North Scouts are ready for anything - join the adventure!
The Walsall North Scouts are ready for anything – join the adventure!
The Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix had a very special visitor
The Rotary Club of Bloxwich Phoenix had a very special visitor…
"Women drivers!", he said.
“Women drivers!”, he said.
The Mayor Cllr Dennis Anson and Mayoress Mrs Kate Anson meets some of those who madThe Mayor Cllr Dennis Anson and Mayoress Mrs Kate Anson meet some of those who made it all happene it all happen
The Mayor Cllr Dennis Anson and Mayoress Mrs Kate Anson meet some of those who made it all happen!

Let the pictures speak for themselves at this point, and there are many many more in the Flickr album, but suffice to say that, like the whole torch relay event and other activities in the village centre, it was immensely well-supported and enthusiastically received by the people of Bloxwich, Leamore and district, and we can only hope to see such fun events going on in Bloxwich Park in future, now the bar has been raised so high by all the combined hard work and enthusiasm of Walsall Council Staff, Bloxwich Business Partnership, Bloxwich Rotary, Bloxwich Carnival Committee and other local organisations and police working together for the good of the community.

A well-deserved rest and some live music at the end of the day for hard-working Jessica Jones, Debbie Jones, Nikki Rolls and Julie Fitzpatrick
A well-deserved rest and some live music at the end of the day for hard-working Jessica Jones, Debbie Jones, Nikki Rolls and Julie Fitzpatrick.
These patriotic pooches in the park know what's best - fun in the sun in Bloxwich
These patriotic pooches in the park know what’s best – fun in the sun in Bloxwich!

There isn’t room to show you all the photographs taken of the Olympic Torch Relay at Bloxwich for The Bloxwich Telegraph here, so as usual with big events we have compiled a photo album on Flickr for you to enjoy – you can view it via the following link, use the Slideshow button for best effect:

FLICKR ALBUM – OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY AT BLOXWICH

If you had your photo taken by The Bloxwich Telegraph, you’ll be able to download it from this album or buy prints if you need them! If you don’t see yourself or your activity or group here, sorry! There was just too much to get round in a short time.  Hope to see you next time!

FOLLOW-UP UPDATE!

Now you can find out what the Olympic Torchbearers though of their visit to Bloxwich and Leamore on a day that was very special for them too!

Follow this link to read: The Torchbearers’ Tales – Olympic Reflections of Leamore and Bloxwich.

Street by Street Olympic Torch Relay route lists online

Olympic Torch Kiss (Courtesy London2012.com)

I was so impressed by a set of downloadable street-by-street Olympic Torch Relay route lists I’ve found on the ITV Central News website that I thought it would be worth sharing this with all our Bloxwich Telegraph readers – and they cover outside the Walsall area as well – in fact, all across the Midlands – so many people from far beyond our borough boundaries will be sure to find them useful!

This is the page to download the route lists in pdf format:

http://www.itv.com/news/central/2012-06-25/day-by-day-guide-to-the-olympic-torch/

If you are planning to line the route, note that where it says CONVOY you will not see the torch or torch bearer – they travel in a van/minibus along that section of the route and NOT on foot!

The one to download which includes the Walsall Area is for Day 43 – follow this link direct to the pdf:

https://www.box.com/s/3e566a5855c128c6e36f

All credit to ITV Central News for making these excellent lists available!

Hope this helps!

Plan ahead to beat the traffic on Olympic Torch Day

Walsall for 2012 logo

Revellers are being strongly encouraged by Walsall Council to plan ahead to avoid the traffic and be sure of a prime spot when the Olympic torch passes through Walsall borough this weekend.

More than thirty runners will carry the torch through Bloxwich, Walsall and Willenhall on Saturday June 30.

Rolling road closures will be staged to minimise delays as much as possible.

But traffic managers have issued a warning of significant delays and ask people to plan ahead if they need to make a journey on, across or near to the relay route.

TOWED AWAY

They also warn motorists not to park along the near side of the route as vehicles causing an obstruction or road safety concern may be moved away or risk being towed away.

A web page setting out the closures has been posted to help people plan their day at: http://walsallfor2012.co.uk/torch-faqs

The website also has details of fun events in Walsall town centre, in and around Bloxwich High Street and Market Place, Willenhall on the big day.

And many details have already been published in The Bloxwich Telegraph, with particular relevance to Bloxwich and Leamore residents – see our Olympic Games category.

ROUTE MAP

A route map poster is available via this link: Walsall Council Olympic Torch Relay Map A1 Poster

ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME

Councillor Mike Bird, Walsall Council Leader, said:

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that people will remember for generations to come.

“There’s no escaping the fact that there will be disruption and we want to issue plenty of warnings in advance.

“Rest assured that we’re working with police to make sure disruption is kept to a minimum.

“But our message is simply to plan ahead and allow far more time than you normally would on Saturday to get about whether you are seeing the torch or heading for the church to get married.”

Torch bearers will carry the torch along the A34 through the centre of Bloxwich along High Street then via Somerfield Road to Green Lane where the torch will travel by van towards Walsall town centre along Green Lane.

Torch bearers will go on foot again once they near Walsall Police Station. The convoy will then turn left at Walsall police station and travel on the ring road and Littleton Street before making a right turn onto Lichfield Street and heading towards the Council House.

The torch bearers will progress to Park Street and Gallery Square via Bridge Street and The Bridge and will then progress through the Pleck, Alumwell and Birchills areas on the Wolverhampton Road and on through Bentley towards Willenhall on Wolverhampton Road West.

The torch progresses through New Road in Willenhall town centre, then exits the borough, heading out to Wolverhampton via Somerford Place and the Portobello island at around 2.50pm.

Bloxwich Celebrates! Olympic Torch Party Posters

Bloxwich Party in the Park Programme

We have today received some final posters and handbills with details of the Olympic Torch-related  Bloxwich Celebrates 2012 event and the Party In The Park in Bloxwich Park this Saturday, including the entertainment and arena programmes, and thought they would be useful to our readers.

Please follow the links to downloads below!

Bloxwich Celebrates 2012 Olympic Poster

Bloxwich Celebrates 2012 Party in the Park Programme

Click on the image below for the full size jpg of the Arena Programme:

Bloxwich Celebrates 2012 Display Arena Programme A4