Olympic torch: Excited crowds greet flame in Wales

The Olympic torch relay was met by large crowds at the start of its five-day tour of Wales.

The flame crossed the English border just after 10:30 BST on its journey from Worcester to Cardiff and was greeted by spectators in Monmouth.

In Abergavenny crowds forced the vehicle convoy to take a detour while the torchbearer ran the planned route.

Olympian Darren Campbell and Wales rugby captain Sam Warburton also ran with the torch during the day.

Thousands lined the streets of the cities of Newport and Cardiff on Friday afternoon to welcome the relay.

Another 16,000 were at a ticketed event at Coopers Field, in the shadow of Cardiff Castle, as the torch arrived for the final leg of the day.

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Media captionThe first bearer on Welsh soil was Gareth John MBE, chairman of Disability Sport Wales

The first bearer on Welsh soil was Gareth John MBE, chairman of Disability Sport Wales.

He then passed the flame to Robyn Tyler, 21, who has lost more than six stone in the past year. She said she was "overwhelmed" to be carrying the flame.

"Seeing the torch travel through Monmouth means a lot to all of us here," she said. "Despite being a small town on the Welsh border, we feel so much a part of the bigger London 2012 picture."

Later the torch travelled through the highest town in Wales, Brynmawr, and paid a lunchtime visit to Big Pit in Blaenavon.

It closed as a working mine in the 1980s but reopened in 2004 after being bought by the National Museum for Wales.

Visitors are taken 100m (300ft) underground using the pit shaft to reach the coalface and are shown around by former miners.

The industrial landscape around Big Pit was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

Miner turned tour guide Andrew Williams, 51, of Ebbw Vale, said the route through the site was fitting given Wales' links to the coal industry.

He said: "The torch relay adds another piece to our history - and it is probably not going to come through here again in many people's lifetimes."

Unique opportunity

Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan heralded the arrival of the Olympic flame saying it would "shine a light on the places, people, values and traditions of Wales".

"Over the next five days, the Olympic torch will be carried by around 550 runners along more than 300 streets in Wales and provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the Games as a country," she said.

Image caption Earlier Olympic gold medallist, Darren Campbell carried the flame in Worcester

Friday's relay began just before 08:00 BST at Cathedral Plaza in Worcester, opposite the statue of English composer Sir Edward William Elgar.

Darren Campbell - who was part of Great Britain's gold medal-winning 4x100m team in Athens 2004 - was one of the first torchbearers of the day.

The route took in the Malvern hills, which are famous for their spring water and also inspired the poet WH Auden.

Wales rugby captain Sam Warburton and Olympic gold medal winners Lynn Davies were among the celebrity torchbearers in Cardiff.

Davies who was born in Nantymoel near Bridgend, was made a CBE in 2006, having previously been an MBE.

Lynn "The leap" Davies, was affectionately nicknamed following his outstanding long jump career in which he won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 1964.

He said carrying the torch had been an "overwhelming" and "fantastic" experience.

The final torchbearer of the day was Melanie Stephenson who carried the flame into Coopers Field, Cardiff, where she lit the cauldron to signal the end of day seven.

"It was fantastic to see the home crowd and I am so grateful for their support. It was amazing."

The relay ended with an outdoor concert in the field, where rockers Kids in Glass Houses performed to a home crowd.

"The Olympics are so world renowned we couldn't turn it down, it's an incredible oppotunity," Aled Phillips from the band said.

"We're following the torch around Wales so it's a massive privilege to us."

In Wales the flame will pass through more than 80 towns, villages and cities from 25-30 May.

A total of 8,000 people will carry the flame on its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey around the UK to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27 July.

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