Hot air balloon welcome for Olympic Torch

The Olympic Torch relay was given a hot air balloon salute as it arrived in North Somerset on 23rd May, with people turning out in their thousands to greet the flame.

Towns and villages were bustling with activity from early in the morning, with the streets lined by sightseers and well-wishers waving flags and replica torches as the flame arrived just before 6.30 AM at the Long Ashton bypass. From there, the flame was carried to the village of Flax Bourton where it was passed to Victoria Swain, who was chosen to carry it for her work in Afghanistan, detecting and defusing unexploded bombs with the Royal Engineers.

Wanting to play their part in the Olympic celebrations, the local hot air balloon club arranged to tether four balloons in the cricket field in Flax Bourton to give a few lucky local residents a spectacular view of the torch as it was carried through the countryside.

Many people arrived along the procession route very early to ensure a good view, several bringing folding garden chairs and flasks of tea. The party atmosphere was helped along by a local hotel providing bacon sandwiches for the crowds, parish councillors serving breakfast in the parish hall and even residents making tea for the spectators.

The welcome was the idea of hot air balloon pilot Phil McShayne from Nailsea who wanted to put the area on the map by staging a unique welcome for the Olympic torch as it arrived in Britain.

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