Olympic torch relay: Wales' taste of the fever

Crowds watch the relay in Carmarthen
Image caption About 20,000 people flocked to see the torch in Carmarthen

At 7am near Swansea, crowds had gathered for Day 9 of the Olympic Torch Relay - and the third day here in Wales.

According to one local, he'd never seen so many people out so early on a Sunday morning in Mumbles.

He and hundreds of others were waiting for a glimpse of the by now famous golden torch and the all-important flame, as they stood kerbside between Bracelet Bay and Oystermouth Castle.

Whether it was Olympic fever, or satisfying curiosity, many came as it's probably the only time they will see the Olympic circus so close to home.

The convoy inched out of Mumbles, with the flame out of the sight of most cameras for a while as it trundled along the promenade of Swansea Bay on the small 'tourist train', it finally reached Singleton Park and aimed for Sketty and Cockett.

Here the Olympic relay organisers had a taste of what was to come - as many hundreds lined the streets and cheered - especially if a local torchbearer or runner was recognised.

Image caption In Haverfordwest, there was an even bigger turn out

Flag sellers made a killing - kitting people out in Union flags. The only Welsh flags on show were those bought along by the crowd themselves.

Blessed with warm sunshine, the excitement of watching the Olympic flame travelling down streets and roads, into towns and villages and through communities, became infectious the further west the Olympic convoy drove.

There seems to be a genuine feeling of intrigue and wanting to see an unique occasion for themselves. Perhaps seeing their familiar area, in a very unfamiliar way.

In between the towns, the flame is kept in a lantern, similar to the old Davy miner's lantern, and then shown to the public again as the convoy arrives.

Llanelli had thousands of locals out cheering as the publicity drive by the main Olympic sponsors and flag sellers paid off with red white and blue bunting and banners very prominent.

It was ballroom dancer Phillip Evans who had the very fortunate leg of running with the flame into his hometown. Boy, did he get a warm Welsh welcome.

He was followed by 15-year-old Kieran Heycock - who suffered with a rare kidney disease for the first 10 years of his life - who sprinted around the town centre.

The police posse in their grey running strip which light and switch off the various torches as the flame is passed on from runner and runner, had to ask him to slow down as he left them, and the convoy behind.

Image caption There are plenty of Union flags available for torch followers

Through Burry Port, and on to Carmarthen - old ladies sat smiling broadly, families came out together, well-dressed church and chapel goers waved and a batteries of smart phones and cameras, video and digital, captured the coming together of the relay and its impact on these communities.

There were an estimated 10,000 packing the streets of Carmarthen, and an impressive 20,000 crowd filling Haverfordwest as the flame arrived for a brief stay in Pembrokeshire.

The star of the show was 21-year-old Rhys Eynon who suffers from autism. He punched the air in joy when he received the torch, and even managed to dance and jig a part of his very popular run through Haverfordwest.

Later as I sped north to Aberystwyth, villages and towns in Ceredigion were preparing to welcome the Olympic torch on its route up the coast.

The colour scheme here was red white and green, and far more Red Dragons were fluttering in the breeze.

Maybe that will change though, when the corporate publicity machine of the 2012 London Games arrives with its merchandise and British flags.

After a stay in Aberystwyth on Sunday, the convoy travels on to Gwynedd and Bangor.

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