Olympics Come To Shetland..Only The Torch, Though

Posted on December 1, 2011


By Laura Kay

Considering the Shetland Isles are host to Europe’s largest fire festival, the sight of someone carrying a torch around the Isles is not entirely unusual. However, on the 10th of June 2012, the torch visiting Shetland will be much less conventional than those usually paraded. Lerwick, the capital of the Isles, will host the arrival of the 2012 Olympic Torch as it reaches the most northerly point in its relay. The torch will be passed up from Orkney, and afterword be handed back South to the Isle of Lewis.

Details about how the flame will be transported up to the Islands are yet to be confirmed. Considering the only ways to travel to Shetland from mainland Scotland are a 12 hour boat journey and a one hour flight, this could be a struggle for the organiser’s of the event.  A local Shetlander; Megan Burns, 18, student, commented on the unfortunate distance. She said: “I feel that the Olympic Torch being in Shetland is brilliant for the community.  However, they claim the torch will always be within a 10-mile radius of 95% of the UK, Shetland being in the other 5%. I feel it would not have taken to much effort to send the torch right to the top of Scotland, as the people of Shetland have fewer opportunities to observe the torch than others on the mainland.”

As Shetland is traditionally seen as a sporting community, the arrival of the torch seems to be met with a positive reaction from the Islanders. Debbie Hutchison, 21, student, said: “It will be excellent to include Shetland in this British event as I feel it is usually excluded from so many sport related affairs, especially as Shetland is so enthusiastic towards sports. It might also encourage local youths to get into sports.” Another Shetland local; Vicky Irvine, 20, student, agreed. She said “I think this will bring recognition to the level of sporting talent in Shetland. I hope this will encourage young people to consider pursuing sports at a national level, rather than the regional competition offered. When I played sport as a youth, we were never encouraged to aim for national levels of competition, even though I feel many could have achieved it. I think it could maximise local talent.”

The executive manager of Sports and Leisure in Shetland, Neil Watt, said that his department was “delighted that the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay will be coming to Shetland. The visit of the Olympic Torch will provide an excellent opportunity for Shetland to promote itself to the world’s media, and to raise the profile of sport in Shetland. It will also provide a unique occasion to recognise the achievements and contributions of the local torchbearers that will carry the flame through Shetland.”

It seems to be the general consensus that Shetlanders hope the Olympic Flame will bring recognition to the amount of relatively unknown athletic talent within the Isles. The 20 selected torchbearers themselves are to be nominated by Shetland residents, for their personal achievements or contribution to the community. Half of the candidates selected will be between the ages 12 and 24, while the other half will have stories capable of inspiring young people. Nominations for the torchbearers are now closed, and the chosen candidates will be confirmed in February next year.

Of course, not everyone in the Isles is as excited about the arrival of the flame as the sport enthusiasts.  Shetland resident Kristina Eunson, 20, student yawned: “It will probably benefit the islands, but I myself will not be going to see it. The Olympics hold little interest for me.”

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