I have to admit to feeling pretty upset, reading the stories of Olympic torches being sold. This not only feels totally out of keeping with the spirit of the London Olympic bid, which was rooted in the concepts of community and regeneration, but is also an incredible missed opportunity to create a significant legacy for the country.
To carry the Olympic torch is a great honour – an extraordinary recognition of the contribution that a person has made in whatever field or endeavour they have excelled. To profit financially or materially from it is to turn a unique experience, representing us all, into a personal cash bonus – this is not right. Surely the honour of being selected and the amazing experience is enough – and if not, then I would suggest that the wrong people were selected.
So, what could be done….how could we collectively benefit from the 8000 Olympic torches?
I propose that the torches become an ongoing legacy to raise money for charities across the country. In this time of financial turmoil, charities need money more than ever to sustain their vital work that we all benefit from.
So how could this work?
The torches could be bought from LOCOG, either by the torch bearers or by sponsors, who would then put them up for auction with the proceeds going to charity. The person/organisation who wins the initial auction would host the torch for one year, at which point it would again be placed for auction to find another host. And so on, with the names of the hosts engraved onto the torch as it passes from person to person. This would take the concept of the torch relay into a new dimension.
An annual auction could take place – July 6th could be the ideal date – and each year an Olympic legacy would cascade across the country, 8000 new hosts would be found, and millions of pounds would be raised. Ideally a volunteer led organisation could coordinate the events and the auctions and to help facilitate the dispersal of funds.
Let’s do the maths on this: if each torch raised £5000 each time it was auctioned (and some would likely raise far more) this would represent an annual total of £40,000,000 raised from the 8000 torches. Think of the difference that this could make in our communities.
So I call on all the torch bearers – starting with the first one, Ben Ainslie – to put the community first, to cherish the memory of being a torch bearer, to feel very proud to have been selected to represent Britain, and to do the right and honourable thing.
An Olympic torch is something to be shared and hosted, not owned and sold (whether now or in the future). Let’s celebrate community and giving, and create a peoples’ legacy for many rather than a personal windfall for a few.