St Albans to face rolling road closures during torch relay

VISITORS to St Albans during the Olympic torch relay through the city this weekend have been warned to expect traffic delays.

However, gridlocked roads are unlikely as the police will organise minor rolling closures on Sunday, July 8, according to St Albans district council’s community development and projects manager Leanne Douglas.

Fourteen torchbearers will carry the flame through the city between 4.06pm and 4.50pm.

Rolling closures ahead of two convoys through the city, starting from Hatfield Road and continuing to Hemel Hempstead, mean motorists should expect delays of up to 20 minutes.

Leanne said no major closures should be needed.

Publicity about the flame coming to St Albans has brought back memories for local people who saw the torch in 1948, when London last hosted the Games.

Evelyn Whinney, 77, who has lived in St Albans since 1962, described the current relay as having more “razzamatazz” whereas the 1948 event was known for its austerity as rationing was still in place.

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Back then, just 24 hours after the torch was welcomed at Dover, it had made its way to the opening ceremony at the Empire Stadium in Wembley, compared to the 70-day relay underway at present around Britain.

Evelyn, of Homewood Road, said: “There is a difference between then and now. Today there are sponsors, two convoys and lots of people in it. It was just athletes themselves back then.”

She literally stumbled on a lone runner carrying the torch to Wembley and there was no fanfare.

Evelyn said: “It wasn’t a big thing. We didn’t even know it was happening. There were just a few people watching a thin man in shorts, quite close to Wembley.”

Given the low-key run-up to the Games back then, Evelyn is looking forward to experiencing her second relay on July 8 and intends watching the torch being carried along Hatfield Road.

Another St Albans resident, Richard Ricks, still has the torch that his late father Derek Ricks carried in 1948 at the age of 20.

Derek was a member of the Queen’s Park Harrier’s Running Club and was selected to carry the torch after being nominated by the organisation.

Richard said: “He was a very enthusiastic runner but didn’t talk about the relay much. Dad was about the third or fourth last man to run.

“I’m very proud that he ran with it. It was the austerity games, so in the photos there aren’t many people cheering them on.”

Derek went on to become a medical consultant at Harperbury Hospital.

Richard said his sports-mad dad would have been thrilled to see so many young people getting involved with the relay and supporting London 2012.