Thousands line the streets as the Olympic Torch arrives in Gosport, Fareham and Portsmouth

Steven George outside Portsmouth Crown Court Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency

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IT TRAVELLED thousands of miles across land and sea to get here. And the Olympic flame was given a warm welcome by the people of Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth when it arrived in our area.

Estimates suggest around 65,000 people packed out Southsea Common to greet the last torchbearer of the day as part of an evening celebration.

OLYMPIC JOY Thousands pack Southsea Common.  Picture: Paul Jacobs

OLYMPIC JOY Thousands pack Southsea Common. Picture: Paul Jacobs

And before that, thousands more people had lined the roads across the area to cheer and wave the flame on.

Torchbearer Jonathon Bamber was beaming when he proudly carried the torch aloft for the final leg of the Portsmouth relay through the crowds.

He walked up on to the stage and lit the cauldron to the sound of a rapturous applause from the crowd on the common.

Jonathon, 26, of St Andrews Road in Southsea, said: ‘To get to the front and light the cauldron was an absolute honour.

ARRIVAL Jonathon Bamber brings the torch towards Southsea Common.  Picture: Aaron Bennett

ARRIVAL Jonathon Bamber brings the torch towards Southsea Common. Picture: Aaron Bennett

‘The amount of people that were there was just incredible.

‘The support they gave me was fantastic. It was an amazing atmosphere and the sun came out for us.’

Jon said it was a huge surprise when he found out he had been chosen as a torchbearer.

He was nominated by his girlfriend Candice Cumming after he helped catch two yobs who had thrown a rock at a woman’s head in Old Portsmouth.

‘I was shocked,’ he said.

‘I didn’t believe it at first. Then it was just excitement. I have been counting down the days.

‘It was very surreal, very strange but exciting.’

Now, Jonathon is going to proudly display his Olympic torch at home.

‘It’s an item that will be in my life forever,’ he said.

His girlfriend, Candice, 26, also of St Andrews Road, was in the crowd to watch him light the cauldron.

The graphic designer had designed torchbearer T-shirts for all of his family and friends to wear for his big day. She said: ‘I felt quite emotional – it all got the better of me, I felt really proud.

‘I got lifted up on my friend’s shoulders so I could get a good view.

‘I nominated him because he did lots of selfless things and helped lots of people.

‘He just went above and beyond, which I thought was a good reason for nominating him, but I never thought it would actually happen.

‘You don’t think when you fill out a form on the internet that anything will happen.

‘I couldn’t believe it when I heard he’d got it.’

People began to swarm the seafront from early in the afternoon as the Olympics organisers put on a party.

There were performances from Portsmouth dance troupe Most Wanted, a choir from the Portsmouth Music Service and pop duo Rizzle Kicks.

The city’s councillor in charge of culture, leisure and sport, Cllr Lee Hunt, said: ‘It was exciting. The sheer number of people who turned out shows people are proud and are welcoming the Olympic spirit. Everyone had a good time and the people of Portsmouth had a good party.’

Today was due to start with a party for schoolchildren at 7am at Fratton Park, before the torch left the stadium at 7.30am.

It was set to head out of the city via Goldsmith Avenue to the M275 en route to Petersfield and Chichester before ending up in Brighton tonight. Check portsmouth.co.uk for regular updates, and the hashtag #newstorch on Twitter.

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