Thursday, 24 May 2012

Olympic Torch comes to Heartlands

The fact that the Olympic Torch relay started in Cornwall was undoubtedly good for our county and helped put Cornwall on the map. The event was well managed and some of those from the Camborne and Redruth area who carried the torch for part of its journey have commended the good work of the organisers in conversation with me.

I know that the torch could not go everywhere but, without wanting to be churlish, I have to confess that it does still annoy me that officials working for the Olympics could decide to exclude Camborne and Redruth from the route. This is the biggest conurbation in Cornwall and at the heart of Cornwall’s history with links across the globe.

To make matters worse, when the Heartlands project initially tried to help and offered to organise a celebration off their own bat, officious Olympic organisers told them that they could not use the word "Olympic" or "torch" in any promotional material. That really wasn’t on.

The thing that grates most with me is the impression that Camborne and Redruth might have been passed over because they were not considered flash enough and that the organisers just wanted picture postcard scenes with beaches and the sea in the background instead. Such a narrow mentality fundamentally misunderstands Cornwall. The thing about Camborne and Redruth is that they are, and have always been, the one bit of Cornwall that can hold its own against any other major urban centre in Britain. This is where you find the companies that make things and the people who get things done. We don’t have second home owners in their yachts and yellow wellies around here but Camborne and Redruth are the towns that stop Cornwall being just another holiday destination. They make Cornwall a serious contender on the national stage and they should be valued for that.

You can't keep a good town down and I would argue that the best Olympic celebration in Cornwall actually took place at Heartlands anyway. The place was packed with children paddling in the red river and in the play area and with thousands visiting the site to take part. The Diaspora play by a local drama group went down particularly well. We showed them how it should be done.

But the star of the day was local girl Amy James, who I had the privilege of meeting at Heartlands. She had carried the torch for a leg of the relay in Rosudgeon. When she had finished she promptly told the organisers she was going straight back to her home towns with her torch because they had been left off the official route and she wanted them to share in the day. Good on her! So Camborne and Redruth got the torch after all.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.