On day 37 of the Olympic Torch Relay my younger brother, Muaaz Khan, was invited to carry the Olympic Flame. He was given this honour in lieu of his efforts in consistently going 'beyond the call of duty' to help others. Given his early morning start of 7.30am I was seriously concerned that nobody would be present to watch his 'moment to shine'.
Arriving on the Torch Relay route last Sunday morning to my surpise I found that the streets were already lined with hundreds of supporters and wellwishers. Some were there because they knew the Torchbearers and still others were there from one of the sponsoring organisations. But the vast majority were simply there as members of the public who had come to see the Olympic Flame carried through their home city.
The presence of so many people unequivically demonstrated one thing if nothing else; that the British public has well and truly bought into the Olympic Spirit. For most people, especially in parts of Great Britain further away from London, and those without tickets, there are limited opportunities to really get involved in the Olympics. But for those same people, the Olympic Flame being carried through their home town is a source of immense pride and something that they rightly have seen as unlikely to happen again in their lifetime.
It is this deep concept of mixing the lofty ideals of the Olympics with our local realities which has brought so many people together in the spirit of friendship and has really been able to bring the Olympics home. It is these feelings that brought out cheering crowds of school children and the elderly, professionals and others, on a wet and windy Sunday morning to line the streets of Manchester in the early hours. For so many people, young and old, simply a photograph with the Olympic Torch meant so much. Ultimately it has been the great pride in their local community, and pride in the Olympic spirit which has made the Olympic Torchbearer Relay an amazing success, and will continue to make The Games a success as they start in a few weeks.
Of course The Games and the Torch Relay have their critics and naysayers. Some will see the sponsorship as excessive and being characteristic of the worst of globilisation. Others will say the sale of the torches to the Torchbearers is further evidence of the commercialisation of The Games. I would site the incredible response of Britain's communities to the Olympic Torch relay and their response to the 8000 torchbearers, as further evidence of its success. Furthermore, The Games have again shown the unique ability of bringing people together regardless of faith or race, as I saw in the passing of the Olympic Flame from a Sikh to a Muslim and onto a Christian.
Importantly, for most torches, this is not the end of their journey. They will be going on, with the torchbearers, to schools and assemblies so that many more children can feel a little bit of history too. Others will be going on to conferences and community centres so that people can have their photograph taken with the torch. All of this will be done in the Olympic Spirit of building bridges between people, bringing communities together and encouraging people to be the best that they can be.