North West Wales

Olympic torch ignites enthusiasm

Torchbearer Elin Owen on the Ffestiniog Railway
Image caption Full steam ahead - torchbearer Elin Owen on the Ffestiniog Railway, leaving Blaenau Ffestiniog for Porthmadog

The tight streets of Blaenau Ffestiniog were packed out as the Olympic flame arrived despite mixed feelings about it in the town beforehand.

Schoolchildren turned out in force and made their own flames and flags of countries which will be competing at London 2012.

The turnout surprised a number of people.

Anne Slevin, who has helped to drum up support by getting schools and Gwynedd council involved for the flame, said: "I'm amazed with it, considering the apathy.

"We managed to change the whole feeling of the torch."

Image caption Crowds out in force in Blaenau Ffestiniog

Beth Griffiths, also from Blaenau Ffestiniog added: "It's fantastic for the area and to see so many people coming out and joining together."

But Sarah Peacock said: "It's all right but it's for the children and it's nice to see them all and nice to see such a lot of people in Blaenau Ffestiniog."

And Bryn Jones, from Harlech, added: "I haven't got any great feeling. If I missed it, I wouldn't have been worried about it."

One person who did not want to be named, said: "We are not from the village but I know there are some who are not supporting it.

"They do not feel Wales has had anything out of the Olympics.

"On the other hand, I will never see the flame again in my life."

Torchbearer Elin Owen carried the flame through the main street to rapturous cheers in the glorious sunshine.

She carried it onto a steam train at Blaenau Ffestiniog railway station, part of the Ffestiniog Railway.

The drivers tooted the engine's horns as the 18-year-old, from Llanrug, ran towards it.

It was then put into a lantern before departing on the next leg of its journey towards Porthmadog.

Elin said: "It was absolutely amazing."

Image caption Twins Leon and Sacha Jones, who will carry the torch in Caernarfon

Paul Lewin, general manager at the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highlands railway company, said: "The railway was established in 1832 to move slate from the quarries in Blaenau down to the harbour in Porthmadog, but these days it is all about the tourist business."

"In terms of events, this is a very important for us."

Twins Sacha and Leon Jones will carry the flame in Caernarfon as it makes its way to the town's castle.

The 17-year-olds, who were nominated for their volunteer work admitted they were shocked to be chosen.

"I was completely over the moon because of the selection process for this and the amount of people who were nominated was unbelievable," said Sacha, who will carry the torch into the castle.

Leon added: "I never expected to get picked is unbelievable.

"It's unusual that out of 8,000 to be picked with your twin sister is unbelievable."

Leon also said "fair play" to his sister for his nomination as she played her part after finding out she had been nominated herself.

But while he is 58 minutes older, Sacha will be the first to run with the torch - by approximately an hour.

Torch bearer Ieuan Thomas says he has no nerves about running the streets of Caernarfon with the Olympic flame.

The 79-year-old former physics teacher, from Carmel, was nominated for his contribution to teaching sport.

He said: "I feel grateful for the chance."

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