In pictures: Islington’s Olympic torch relay
Comedian David Walliams and war hero Phil Packer headed an inspirational cast of torchbearers as the Olympic Flame reached Islington.
The Britain’s Got Talent judge was the star attraction as thousands got up early to celebrate the coming of the Games on a gloriously sunny morning last Thursday.
More than 100,000 people lined the borough’s streets as the relay made its way from King’s Cross to Farringdon, via Caledonian Road, Offord Road, Upper Street and Rosebery Avenue.
As he prepared for his moment in the sun, the Little Britain star, who was chosen for his tireless fundraising efforts for Sport Relief, told the Gazette: “I’m very excited, it’s quite an honour – but I thought I was the only one!
“It seems a very simple thing to do, but I really have to think about this so I don’t set anyone on fire – I’m giving the flame to Phil Packer and he has a big bushy beard and I don’t want to set him alight.”
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The pavement outside Islington Town Hall was positively heaving by 7.30am.
Cllr Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, said a few words before Mr Walliams emerged from inside the town hall, performed a few stretches, and told the crowd: “Thank you very much for coming out to see me – I know there’s a flame as well, but I know you’re here to see me.
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“It’s a real honour to be here, as some real legends have carried this torch –including Jedward.”
Teacher Rhyania Blackette–Codrington, 29, who lives in Hoxton, then handed him the flame as music blared and acrobats Scarabeus provided a thrilling backdrop, performing halfway up the face of the town hall.
She said: “I can’t even find the words to explain the feeling when I stepped off the bus – after having my son, this was the best day of my life.
“I was really nervous. But the crowds were amazing. All of my family had ‘Team Rhy’ t-shirts on and were cheering for me.”
Mr Walliams said it had been “a very special feeling”, adding: “You run and people are cheering your name and you’re waving. I felt like I’d won a gold medal.
“It was a great reception from Islington and I felt quite moved actually.”
One young fan, an avid reader of Mr Walliams’s children’s books, could hardly contain his excitement and rushed into the town hall to have his picture taken with his idol.
Joseph McCarthy, nine, of Hornsey Road, Holloway, said: “He was very kind and he said I made his day.” His mum Christalla Joannou, 54, said: “We’re going to remember this day forever.”
Army major Phil Packer, who has raised millions for charity since being injured serving in Iraq, was next to carry the torch.
He said: “It was a humbling experience. The crowds were brilliant – they probably didn’t know who I was, but it was an amazing experience and really uplifting, and a little bit emotional.”