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Give us extra 'ordinary' not celebrity torch bearers

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Adrian Warner | 16:24 UK time, Wednesday, 18 May 2011

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To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to today's press briefing on next year's Olympic torch relay because I expected it just to be list of places where the flame would be visiting - hardly exciting news.


Then Len Arnold walked into the room in central London and bounced up to me. He changed my mood in an instant.

Len's an extraordinary man. I met him a couple of years ago when I reported on his struggling gymnastics club in Erith, just outside of London.

He seems to be one of those people for whom "life's glass" is always half full - or nearly full. As a "half empty" sort of bloke, I admire his positive thinking.

Len told me he was hoping to be running with the 2012 torch next year.

I was impressed, but not half as impressed as I was when I realised that it was 2012 chairman Lord Coe who was nominating him as his top torchbearer.

The double Olympic champion has met many inspirational figures in sport from his athletics days. So, why has he chosen a man whom he came across just a year ago?

Len, and his wife Yvonne, set up their gymnastics club 18 years ago in an old industrial building.

It was a bare shell with no lighting or heating, but they transformed it, carving out gymnastic landing pits from the concrete floor and installing a sprung competition floor.

When the club faced a financial crisis three years ago, because the rent of the building escalated, they even sold their home and moved into the gym to keep the club going.

The complex has now attracted cash from the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Lottery and can boast 700 members. The new "Europa" gym is now being built. But without Len and Yvonne's determination, thousands of kids would have missed out on gymnastics.

Britain is full of people who have devoted their lives to sport and to developing young talent. They play a crucial role in the sporting life of our country.

I hope the torch is carried by thousands of Len Arnolds. Fewer celebrities please, London 2012.

Let the extraordinary but little-known people in British sport carry the Olympic flame through our streets.

BBC London 2012

Twitter: @BBCLdnOlympics

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