Hethersett schoolchildren enjoy special Olympic torch relay

Hundreds of schoolchildren in Hethersett enjoyed the thrill of handling a rare slice of British sporting history as the original torch from the 1948 London Olympic Games paid a special visit to the village.

The aluminium artefact, which was on loan from Loughborough College, was passed from pupil to pupil in a large scale relay at four schools while young athletes from Hethersett carried the historic item from site to site.

Yesterday's event, which involved Hethersett Woodside Infant and Nursery School, Hethersett Junior School, Hethersett High School and Hethersett Old Hall School, were overseen by former Olympic marathon runner Paul Evans and 15-year-old Dereham wheelchair athlete Will Smith, as well as chairman of Norfolk County Council Shelagh Hutson.

Shane Hull, chairman of Hethersett's Olympic committee, said the relay was timed to mark the start of the one year countdown until the London 2012 Olympic torch is due to travel through Norfolk.

He said: 'Next year the Olympic torch relay comes to Norfolk and if we're lucky only one or two children from here we get to carry it as I think only 8,000 people are being picked across the country. This gives the opportunity for every child in the village to hold an actual Olympic torch.'

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Mrs Hutson added: 'I think it's really very exciting for the children. They can learn about the Olympics and what happens and touching the torch from 1948 helps them realise the importance of getting the games to this country.'

Nicola Cushion, headteacher at Hethersett Woodside and Infant School, said the children had 'absolutely loved' pretending to be Olympic athletes for the day and that the event would now inspire a series of activities and lessons shaped around the games.

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'We want to use this to talk about the Olympic values - there are seven values which include respect, equality, friendship and excellence. We will use them as part of our curriculum. They are far reaching and the children can embrace them as well as take part in sport events,' she said.

Hethersett earned praise last year for organising more Olympic-themed public events per head of its population then anywhere else in the UK.

It was singled out by Sir Keith Mills, the deputy chairman of the London 2012 organising committee, who visited the village last July to launch the eastern region's Open Weekend - an annual three-day sporting and cultural national celebration which has been acting as a countdown for the games since 2008.

This year's Hethersett Open Weekend will take place from July 22 to 24, with events including a day of sporting competitions on the Memorial Playing Field, a swimming marathon, a talent contest and a classical concert.

Are you organising an event to celebrate the countdown to the London 2012 games? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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