Thousands welcome Olympic torch in Magherafelt

THE town of Magherafelt came to a standstill last week as record crowds gathered to welcome the arrival of the Olympic torch. An estimated crowd of 8000 assembled to watch the torch and its entourage make its way through the town on day 20 of the 70-day Olympic torch relay.

The torch was in the Province for five days visiting selected destinations and beauty spots across Northern Ireland including our very own populace.

To mark the historic visit, Magherafelt District Council organised a series of community events to celebrate the momentous occasion.

The night before the torch’s visit a colourful parade of groups, charities and businesses walked carnival-style from Meadowbank Sports Arena into the town centre. The waiting crowd also welcomed some of Magherafelt’s nominated sporting heroes alongside a specially-made Olympic chariot. The evening celebrated the district’s excellence in sport, dance and music through a programme of talent compered by DJ Ricky K and included dance displays and singing by various groups and artists.

A collaborative arts project was also unveiled by council chairman Ian Milne and Trevor Neilands, Director of Northern Regional College who coordinated the project. The abstract torch involved all sectors of the community including schools, community groups and individuals. Art &graphics were produced by the groups and transferred on to ceramic tiles to decorate the art piece which will be installed temporally at Magherafelt Library until the opening of the new Greenvale Leisure Centre where it will be displayed as a permanent piece of public art.

Excitement was in the air again the following morning as 3206 school children came together to form the famous Olympic rings at Meadowbank Sports Arena. Kirsty McNeill from Kirsty’s Kenetic Dancers choreographed the display in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record. Confirmation of its success should be received within the next few days.

A special broadcast of all events was organised by Anderson Video and NEELB TV and was streamed live via the internet and on TV screens in Magherafelt, Belfast and L’Derry. Local presenter Claire Glancy hosted the programme from a dedicated studio set up at First Magherafelt Presbyterian Church where she was joined by guests from the district. Cameras were then linked to events around the town where on-the-street reporters Emma-Louise Johnston and Angela Davison caught the crowd’s excitement of the torch’s arrival. An overhead helicopter was also recording the extraordinary scenes.

Goodwill messages were also played from First Minister Peter Robinson; Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín; Olympic medallist Wendy Houvenaghal; Dame Mary Peters; INXS mega star Ciaran Gribbin, Kilmarnock Football Manager Kenny Shiels; Moyola Park Golf Club’s Chris Selfridge; Silhouette singer Shauna Tohill as well as words of support from the town’s business community.

At 13.30, the world-famous torch arrived to a rapturous crowd on the Ballyronan Road as the first of three torchbearers carried it through the town - from the Ballyronan Road to the town centre; around the round-a-bout on to Broad Street and then on to the Castledawson Road where is was then taken on by vehicle.

Anne-Marie Campbell, Director of Policy and Development stated, “We are delighted with the success of the events and the response from schools, businesses and the community. It was amazing to see how everyone worked together to help make it all possible. A big thank you goes to NRC, NEELB TV, Anderson Video, council staff and Kirsty McNeill who went the extra mile to ensure it all came together. “

The torch’s visit may now be over but no doubt events will leave a lasting legacy in the community of the once-in-a-lifetime event. A 30 minute edited highlights programme is currently available via NEELB.TV A DVD recording of the historic event is also in the process and will soon be available from Magherafelt District Council.

For further information contact Michael Browne, Davina McCartney or Charmain Bell at Magherafelt District Council 028 7939 7979 or email