ST ANDREWS took on a carnival atmosphere for the arrival of the Olympic torch early on Wednesday morning, the latest stage of its marathon journey around the UK.
Hundreds of people gathered in St Salvator’s Quadrangle from 6am for the all-ticket event to witness the historic ceremony when the torch was symbolically re-lit from a miner’s lantern before being handed over to Mark Beaumont - the first of the day’s 115 torchbearers - to the sounds of the chapel bells.
The huge crowd was welcomed by St Andrews University principal and vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson and Fife Provost, Councillor Jim Leishman, who were joined on stage by university chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell, himself a former Olympian, who were led into the quad by the City of St Andrews Pipe Band.
Professor Richardson described it as “a wonderful occasion” and expressed her delight that so many people “had come together to celebrate the Olympic ideal.”
After accepting the torch, record-breaking round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont completed a lap of the quadrangle to shouts of “come on Mark,” before before exiting on to North Street where hundreds of people cheered and applauded.
The torch was also carried on the West Sands beach in a re-enactment of the opening sequences from the Oscar-winning film, Chariots of Fire.
It was held by 13-year-old Madras College pupil, Joe Forrester, a member of Fife AC, who led a group of around two dozen fellow pupils along the sands in the early morning sunshine, in a filmed scene which has since been seen by millions of television viewers around the world.
Joe later admitted to being apprehensive before the start of the run, but his nerves quickly evaporated once it was under way.
Other torchbearers in St Andrews included Sir Craig Reedie, former chairman of the British Olympic Association, who completed the final leg in Hepburn Gardens just after 7.15am before the convoy set off for the 45-minute trip to Milnathort and eventually Edinburgh, and Louise Martin (65), chair of SportScotland.
Mrs Martin, who posed on the famous Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course, said: ”I can’t believe I’ve actually done it.”
Prior to the lighting of the Olympic torch, pupils from the four local primary schools - Canongate, Lawhead, Greyfriars and St Leonards - took part in a relay race around the quad, which was won by the latter.
Reflecting on the day’s events, Provost Leishman said: “It’s brilliant that Fife has played host to such an historic occasion this morning, and I was proud to be part of it.
‘‘This was a once in a lifetime event for St Andrews and for the whole of Fife.”
Patrick Laughlin, of the local charity St Andrews Partnership, which co-ordinated the community elements of the event, said: ”This occasion will live long in the memories of everyone present.”