A tale of two torches

The official London 2012 Olympic torch is “made up of an inner and an outer aluminium alloy skin, held in place by a cast top piece and base, perforated by 8,000 circles“. In April, it won the award for Britain’s Design of the Year.
Its alter-ego is made from a toilet plunger, curled gold wrapping ribbon and strips of yellow felt with the words “End Poverty” emblazoned in red.
This afternoon in Clissold Park in north London, as children splashed in a paddling pool and people ate lunch in an outdoor cafe, a few dozen activists critical of the Olympics gathered to send this alternative torch on the latest leg of its own relay.
John Thornton and a fellow activist with the "poverty torch"This relay is rather different from the official one. Needless to say, there was no Coca Cola bus. Nor were there throngs of people trying to catch a glimpse of the “poverty torch”, created by activists opposed to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and handed on to London’s Counter Olympics Network. (It’s a safe bet, I think, that the acronym was not created by chance). They, in turn, plan to pass the torch to opponents of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Two of those opponents were in Clissold Park today, one of them dressed in a traditional long green dress with gold trim.
The small crowd cheered and clapped as John Thornton, a local disabled activist, carried the torch in his wheelchair to the park gates to get the relay going.
“Although I’ve been always very keen on sports, I’ve always been horrified by the impact of the Olympics on the host countries,” Thornton said. “It’s usually an operation for the benefit of commercial organisations, not for sports.”
After the torch had gone on its way, Gail Chester, a co-founder of CON, wearing a white T-shirt with the London 2012 logo and the words “official protester”, was talking to me when a woman stopped to ask what she was protesting about. When Chester explained, the woman said she wasn’t happy missiles were being sited in London due to the Games but, she said defiantly as she turned away, “I think the Olympics are fantastic”.
“Do you like the fact that it’s costing £24 billion?” Chester called after her.*
Masked activist at the "poverty torch" relay*The official cost to taxpayers is about £9 billion but a Sky News investigation concluded in January that the true price was more than £12 billion and could be more than £24 billion if other items of Olympics-related spending were included.


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