THE Olympic torch is coming to Larne as part of its 70-day relay around the UK ahead of the London 2012 Games.
Local residents will have the chance to join in the Olympic celebrations when the flame makes its way through the borough on Sunday, June 3, passing through Glynn, Larne, Drains Bay, Ballygally, Glenarm and Carnlough.
And the borough has another reason to rejoice, as it has been confirmed Larne’s very own Paralympic winning medallist Diane McMillan will be one of the torchbearers carrying the flame through the borough.
Diane, a former pupil of Larne and Inver Primary School and Larne Grammar School, began training with Larne Swimming Club at the tender age of four, despite having a congenital abnormality of the lower leg. At the age of 11, she and her family made the difficult decision to amputate the lower part of her leg to allow for a better standard of mobility through the prosthetic leg.
At 13 years of age she was talent spotted by the British Amputee Sports Association and invited to train and compete against others with similar disabilities. Her ability stood out and she was selected to represent Great Britain in the 1988 Seoul Paralympics, where she exceeded expectations and became the first ever athlete from Northern Ireland to bring home a Paralympics medal, scooping two Gold, one Silver and two Bronze.
Success continued in 1989, when she won four Gold medals at the World Championship Games in Florida, and shortly after she had triple Gold success at the US Amputee Games in New York. That year, she also tasted success in the European Championship in Holland.
The list of successes went on and in 1992 she became a double Olympian competing in the Barcelona Games, this time returning home with a Bronze medal. Retirement from Elite Performance coincided with the call of university for this talented athlete who graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in public relations before attending Strathclyde University for a PGCE in primary school teaching.
Residents will be able to cheer Diane and the other torchbearers on at various points along the route. The torch is expected to arrived in Glynn at about 12.30pm, before making its way through Larne along Bank Road, Circular Road, and Glenarm Road, finishing at Chaine memorial Park at about 1.00pm.
From there, it will travel up the Coast Road though Drains Bay (1.15pm), Ballygally (2.13pm), Glenarm (2.34pm), before arriving in Carnlough at 2.50pm.
After leaving the village, the flame will continue through Glenariff, Cushendall, Ballycastle and Dervock, before making an overnight stop at Portrush.
Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Commmittee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) said: “The flame symbolises the Olympic spirit and its journey around the UK will bring the excitement of the Games to our streets. Now the people know the route the Olympic Flame will be carried along and the torchbearers for their community, they can start planning how they might celebrate and make it Larne Borough’s moment to shine.”
Northern Ireland Sports Minister, Carál Ni Chuilín said: “This is a real opportunity for the entire island to shine as the torch visits between June 3 and June 7. The relay will showcase and celebrate our torchbearers who are inspirational people who do so much for their local communities.
“As the torch journeys across the country, from Belfast to Derry to Aughnacloy, Banbridge and Larne over the four day celebration, the eyes of the world will be on our beautiful landscape and iconic buildings and our amazing cultural and sporting achievements.
“Excitement is growing now that local people can begin to plan where the torchbearers will be carrying the torch in their areas and plan to celebrate the arrival in their communities.”
An average of 115 torchbearers a day will carry the Olympic flame during its 8,000 mile journey around the UK before it arrives at the Olympic Stadium on July 27 for the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony, signifying the official start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
LOCOG has worked closely with representatives from a number of sectors in each region of the UK to devise the route and is taking the torch to within ten miles of over 95 per cent of the population.
Local schools can now access free learning resources linked to the Olympic Torch Relay through Get Set (london2012.com/getset), the official London 2012 education programme. The activities are designed to help schools make the most of the relay by lining the route and cheering on their local torchbearers.
The full route of the Olympic torch relay can be viewed at www.london2012.com/olympictorchrelay