The Flame

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On the 14th of July 2000, Ben and I picked up my family from Adelaide Airport. The following morning Ben’s family arrived, and at 8.25am on the 15th of July, I stood on my street corner, dressed in white shorts and a long-sleeved white top while the footpaths pulsed with excited crowds. The sun shone a glorious winter morning, making my nose tingle with warmth in the cool air. People had set up their barbeques on their front lawns, breakfast bacon and eggs crackled amid the chinking of champagne glasses. Children clambered to see the torch I was given by a round policeman astride his gleaming blue Harley Davidson.

The children’s jostling and shoving and cries of, “I was there first! Mu-u-u-um, he pushed in!” made me expand. I was standing at the centre of something so much greater than myself and instinct told me the moment had to be shared with the little ones at the beginning of their journey. A boy of about five reached up tentatively to touch the shiny blue and white torch and I caught his eye.

“You want to hold it?” I asked and his mouth gaped as he held his breath. I placed the Olympic torch in his hands and he glowed, reverently passed it to the next child who also fell silent, then exploded with an inexplicable buzz as soon as the torch had passed to the next little pair of hands. The jostling intensified and parents called, “Amy, you be careful with that! Oh God, don’t let her drop it!”

Ben stood back from the crowd with the hint of a tear glistening in the corner of his tired eyes. The morning of the 15th of July was the first time he had seen me smile in over two months. Really smile. No lies.

“Okay, everyone back behind the barriers, thanks. Grab your torch, Ma’am, ‘cause here she comes!” As they scuttled back, necks craning as far as they would go, a convoy of bikes, cars and busses rumbled towards us.

I squeezed my escort runner’s hand. She was nervous. I breathed in the anticipation and bowed my torch to meet the man who carried the flame. He lowered his torch, the flame burning unmistakably in his chest, and he exhaled, “She’s all yours.”

What is it about the flame? It was like being lifted by a force beyond this world. I felt that if I jumped at that moment I would fly. The road disappeared under my feet and the crowds were a long way away, cheering and waving in uninhibited joy. That flame had consumed me for so many years, my quest to capture it had destroyed me, but in that moment, it really was all worthwhile. No lie.

The fire sang as I jogged and smiled and waved, in a dream:

“I am the light that calls the brave. I am their initiation fire. I am warmth and their destruction. I am the Spirit of the warrior’s path.”

As the next runner held her torch high, as I bowed mine down to kiss hers, my part in the relay over in a flash, the flame winked goodbye and whispered, “Did you notice?”

“Notice what?” I wondered, aching to be able to hold on to that light just a little longer.

“I shine brightest when I’m shared.”

Extract from “Wobbles – An Olympic Story

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