Huge Southsea Common event organised for Olympic torch’s arrival in Portsmouth

111819_OLYMPIC_VICTORY_18/05/11''John Jenkins MBE and Linvoy Primus at HMS Victory during the official announcement of first locations on the Olympic Tourch Route Relay. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (111819-983)
111819_OLYMPIC_VICTORY_18/05/11''John Jenkins MBE and Linvoy Primus at HMS Victory during the official announcement of first locations on the Olympic Tourch Route Relay. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (111819-983)
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PORTSMOUTH will throw a massive party in July next year to celebrate the Olympic Torch’s arrival in the city.

Southsea Common will be the setting for the two-hour free evening event on July 15, when the torch will arrive in the city from Jersey.

A huge stage will be set up on the common, where national and local singers, dancers, entertainers and sports people will perform.

The party was announced yesterday, and will take place because Portsmouth has been chosen as an overnight stopping point for the torch.

The flame will leave on July 16, when the torch relay will travel to Brighton.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It’s a wonderful thing to have here. Not only will the torch come to Portsmouth, but we’ll be looking after it overnight. It’s great for the city.’

Final plans are being made for the celebrations, and the torch’s route through the city, but Sir Keith Mills, London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games chairman, expects Portsmouth to put on a great show.

Speaking at yesterday’s announcement on board HMS Victory, he said: ‘I know Portsmouth will put on an amazing show. When Portsmouth won the FA Cup, more than 250,000 people came out to celebrate. This will be a great venue for the relay, and for the evening celebrations. Portsmouth knows how to throw a party.’

Portsmouth’s events manager Drusilla Moody said: ‘I showed members of the team around the city at the start of April 2010, and we’ve since had negotiations and visits. We’re still organising the party, but it’ll be at the common, as the FA Cup celebrations and the Tour De France were. We’ll work with schools and groups across the community to bring together the city’s best talent.’

LOCOG and The News also hope to join together to help readers be part of the relay, and carry the torch.

Former Pompey player Linvoy Primus has nominated 92-year-old war veteran John Jenkins MBE to take part. Mr Primus said: ‘He’s a war hero and given many years to Pompey. I couldn’t think of anyone better to take part. The Olympics is a chance for everyone in the country to come together and it’s brilliant the torch is coming here.’

Mr Jenkins, who has been part of Pompey’s boardroom team for 17 years, won his MBE for his role in Second World War campaigns including the Normandy Landings.

He said: ‘It’s very exciting. It’s a unique experience for everyone, it’s great for Portsmouth and I really hope I can be involved.’