The Olympic Torch Relay is more than just a symbol encouraging communities to come together and support their national sportspeople in August. It also signals the beginning of the end for those more excited about the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games than anything going on in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
Kicking off from Land's End on the south-western tip of England on June 19, the Olympic Torch Relay was carried aloft by a succession of Torch Bearers through Wales and north-west England, where it set sail from Liverpool to stop off at the Isle of Mann before finally arriving in Belfast on June 2.
There were four major destinations on the Northern Irish leg of the Relay, with Belfast inevitably chosen to host the Torch on two separate occasions, given its proximity to Scotland, where the Torch Relay is bound for next.
The Torch travelled from Belfast throughout County Antrim and along the North Coast, stopping off at the second major destination, Portrush, on June 3.
Derry~Londonderry was next on the list, and with the five-day Big Flame Festival ongoing, there was plenty for residents and visitors to the city to do before the Torch arrived in the Walled City on June 4. Former Olympians, boxer Charlie Nash and judo expert Terry Watt, were among the local Torch Bearers that day.
Enniskillen provided the Relay's western-most destination, and the rain could not dampen the spirits at Enniskillen Castle, where a public picnic, street theatre, face painting and other activities kept the locals entertained until the Flame came into view.
Midway through it's journey across Northern Ireland, the Olympic Torch Relay settled on the banks of Lough Neagh, the largest fresh water lake in the country. Many of those Inspire Mark projects that encourage children and young people to get involved in new sports were there on the day, one of which – Ocean Youth Trust Ireland – escorted the Torch across the lough as part of a huge flotilla.
Newry was the fourth official destination on the Northern Irish Olympic Torch Relay schedule. After there the Torch made an unusual detour south (outside of the official host nation) to visit Dublin before returning to Belfast, where General Fiasco and others whipped up a storm at a concert at City Hall.
It might have been a wash out in places, but most people were genuinely excited to be a part of the Olympic Torch Relay. For those who couldn't make it to see the Torch pass by, a live stream is available on the London 2012 website.