16/06/2012 11:26 BST

Pc David Rathband's Daughter Mia Carries Olympic Torch

The late hero Pc David Rathband would have been "very proud" for his daughter to carry the Olympic Torch today, his widow has said.

The blinded traffic officer, who had been shot by gunman Raoul Moat, was selected to run a leg with the flame but was found hanged at his home in Blyth, Northumberland, in February.

david rathband

His daughter Mia, who wore a blindfold, was handed the flame in Whitburn, South Tyneside, on the Gateshead to Durham leg of its tour around Britain.

The 43-year-old officer's widow Kath said: "It means so much to Mia and the family that she's been given this opportunity to carry the Olympic Torch in her dad's place.

"It was a great honour for David to be nominated as a torch bearer by so many people and to be selected.

"I know he would be very proud to see his Mia carry the torch on his behalf this Saturday."

After TV adventurer Bear Grylls's spectacular zip slide with the torch off the Tyne Bridge last night, Richard Jackson kicked off the day by abseiling with it down the stunning Sage Music Centre in Gateshead this morning.

It was carried to South Shields where 10,000m double Olympic gold winner Haile Gebrselassie handed it to Great North Run founder and Olympic bronze winner Brendan Foster took over.

He carried the flame to the spot where the famous run - the world's second biggest half marathon - ends on the seafront.

After Gebrselassie and Foster crossed the line together the Ethiopian said: "I think it was a photo finish.

"It was an amazing atmosphere and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone involved.

"The Olympics isn't just about winning medals, it's about people coming together and taking part.

"It was fantastic to be back running in the North East in front of these big crowds."

Foster said: "It was great to give Haile Gebrselassie such a wonderful taste of the Olympic spirit.

"This was an honour and a privilege to cross the Great North Run finishing line with one of the world's leading Olympians and for us both to be carrying the Olympic torch.

"It was a memorable moment for the people of South Tyneside, who will savour this occasion for ever."

Later Olympic silver winner Steve Cram carried the flame into Sunderland's Aquatic Centre, next to his beloved Stadium of Light.

Crowds cheered and young swimmers waved from the 50m pool.

He said afterwards: "It's lovely to see the reaction of the people in the North East.

"The purpose of the torch relay is to take the Olympics past your front door almost.

"It's one way people can get to the Olympics and feel as if they have just about touched it."

Hundreds gathered at Gateshead's Angel of the North to watch voluntary worker Iris Hutchinson, 69, carry the torch.

She waved and held the flame aloft for the waiting photographers under the sculpture's imposing span.