Olympic legend Jim gets his hands on Torch

Olympic Torch in Morpeth. Picture by Victoria Najafi.

Olympic Torch in Morpeth. Picture by Victoria Najafi.

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FORMER Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jim Alder MBE was a popular surprise runner for the Bridge Street to Goosehill leg of the Torch Relay.

The marathon runner, who is President of Morpeth Harriers, was nominated for his proud sporting achievements by fellow North East athletes Steve Cram and Brendan Foster.

Mr Alder, who lives in Ellington, said: “It was a good day and a great experience. All those who criticise the Olympic Games should look long and hard at the public involvement. For a crowd like that to turn out on such a wet day speaks volumes.

“I was very flattered to be nominated to carry the Torch. It’s a long time since I worked a crowd.”

Mr Alder’s family were among the spectators watching him take the honour, and to the delight of hundreds of schoolchildren he paraded the Torch up and down the street while he was waiting to begin his run.

He said: “I think it is a great thing getting the youngsters involved. The legacy that Seb Coe set out for the Olympics was all about the youth and I think the committee overall has done a wonderful job with that.”

Carrying the Torch was not entirely a new experience for the world-famous athlete as though it was his first Olympic Torch Relay, he has twice been given the honour of carrying the Silver Baton for the Commonwealth Games, in 1970 and again in 1986.

The Relay also brought back memories of Mr Alder’s triumphant return from the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Kingston where he won marathon gold and was welcomed home with a special reception in Morpeth town centre.

He said: “It is very nice for a man of my age to be doing something like this. I thought my glory days were behind me. It did bring back memories of the old days.

“When I won at the Commonwealth Games I had a big Rolls Royce and the crowds were out in the town for a civic reception. It was a similar crowd for the Torch Relay so it did stir some memories.”

Mr Alder will keep his Olympic Torch as a memento of the special day.