‘Come and show your support for the torch’

Fareham Community Hospital in Salisbury Green

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THE moment has almost arrived – the day the Olympic torch will be coming to the Portsmouth area.

And sailing legend Geoff Holt is urging people in Portsmouth, Gosport and Fareham, to make sure they line the streets and celebrate the historic occasion, due to take place tomorrow.

DELIGHT Alison Houchin from Gosport and Geoff Holt with their torches. Picture: Steve Reid (122375-143)

DELIGHT Alison Houchin from Gosport and Geoff Holt with their torches. Picture: Steve Reid (122375-143)

Mr Holt, of Shedfield, carried the Olympic torch with pride yesterday.

He passed through a street in Swanage, Dorset, which was packed with people wearing Union Jack hats and waving flags.

Even the rain held off as the disabled sailor transported the flame by wheelchair.

Now as the south of Hampshire gears up for its turn to see the torch, Mr Holt is asking people to support the celebrations.

He said: It was a little nerve-wracking, but I had a huge amount of pride.

‘People in Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, should really be getting excited about the torch coming to the county.

‘This is a huge honour for the county.’

Mr Holt was chosen as a torchbearer after completing challenges in recent years, such as becoming the first quadriplegic to sail unassisted across the Atlantic.

He thrilled scores of onlookers by wheeling around in circles in his wheelchair as he carried the torch on a special bracket attached to the frame.

The flag-waving crowd let out a huge cheer as he powered his electric wheelchair along the street.

The sailor carried the torch for 300 yards, before it ‘kissed’ the next torch that was in the relay.

‘I feel very proud and it was great to carry the torch,’ he added.

‘I was chuffed to bits and the first feeling I had was excitement and proud that I was picked.’

Mr Holt carried the torch for Victoria Avenue, near Ilminster Road, down to Shore Road.

‘It was over very quickly,’ he said.

‘The build up of it all was very emotional.

‘As we were on the coach everyone was cheering and you could really sense the excitement that was felt.

‘It was brilliant to see the streets lined with people and I feel honoured to take part in such a special occasion.

‘The support highlights the Olympics is touching everyone.

‘By carrying the torch through the streets, it brings is closer to people that might not be going to the games.

‘It’s also affected young and old and got the nation inspired.’

And there was also another Hampshire torchbearer that took part in Swanage.

Alison Houchin, of Cranborne Road, Gosport, was also selected to carry the Olympic flame.

Alison, 50, works for Batleys cash and carry, in Talbot Road, Fareham.

Coca-Cola, who is partners of the London 2012 Games, asked staff members at the warehouse to put forward stories about themselves doing charitable deeds.

She said: ‘Last November I walked 26 miles from Stonehenge to Aylesbury for the Alzheimer’s Society.

‘I raised £700. I picked that charity because my father, Gerald Banks-Popple, died of the disease aged 78.’

Warehouse assistant Alison’s story inspired the sponsors and she was chosen to carry the torch.

‘It was so exciting to be picked and I couldn’t believe the number of people that came out to see the torch,’ she added.

‘You could see people were gripped by the relay and that the Olympics are going to be spectacular.

‘I felt very proud to be British and you could really see people getting together to support the event.’

Alison was cheered on by husband Mark, 45, son Adam Newton, 24, and her mother Deva Banks-Popple, 79.

Other people that carried the torch from the Portsmouth area were:

Andy Clutton, of Gosport

Anton James, of Fareham

Gill Whitfield, of Portsmouth