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Durham University

Durham University News


Olympic Torch given warm welcome on University’s Racecourse

(18 June 2012)

Matt Baker lighting the Olympic Cauldron, crowds at The Racecourse, Paul Collingwood at Durham Cathedral, Naomi at torch handover

Thousands of people celebrated the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Durham City on the University’s Racecourse this weekend.

Durham University students came out in force to be part of this unique opportunity to welcome the Olympic Flame.

Kate Houghton, a second-year Sport student from Collingwood College, said: "It is so exciting to have this Olympic event in Durham, especially as I am a volunteer at the Olympics in London this summer. The celebrations on the Racecourse have brought everyone together, and it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of this."

The line-up included regional Indie band Litte Comets and hit dance act Twist and Pulse as well as performances by the Gala Theatre Stage School and Deerness Gymnastics Academy. TV presenter Matt Baker carried the Flame onto the Racecourse and lit the celebration cauldron.

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “It was a great honour to welcome the Olympic Flame to the University’s Racecourse. I feel it was fitting that this symbol of sport and teamwork should come to the University where we pride ourselves on not only offering our students an excellent academic degree, but also ensuring they develop their skills in teamwork through sport, the arts and volunteering.

"It has been fantastic to see so many of our staff and students as well as other members of the local community join in the celebrations on the Racecourse and show their support for the Olympic Games."

On Sunday, County Durham cricketer Paul Collingwood set off on the first leg of the relay from Durham City. On the same day, the three Durham University torchbearers, Naomi Hoogesteger, Kira Roberts and Steph Elliott, did the honours on behalf of the University.

The three rising sportswomen have all represented Great Britain in their respective sports of rowing, fencing and hockey.

Naomi Hoogesteger, who combines part-time postgraduate study with a teaching post in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, hit the headlines last year when she broke the world record for the fastest Atlantic rowing crossing as the only female crew member.

Naomi said: "Although I am a firm believer that true inspiration to achieve must come from within, the support that I have received during my time at Durham University, and in particular from my academic department and college, is unparalleled. Along the various sporting paths that I have taken, I have come to realise that having such a rock to rely upon is of utmost importance in order to achieve ambitions and dreams."

As well as boasting torchbearers amongst its students, the University is delighted that one of its students has been selected to represent Team GB in wheelchair fencing at the Paralympic Games in London. Gemma Collis, a first year Law student and member of St Cuthbert’s Society, will make her Paralympic debut after only taking up fencing just over seven months ago when she started at Durham University.

Durham University cemented its global reputation as a centre for sporting excellence in February with the opening of its £6.7m new sporting facility, which has one of only three powered indoor rowing tanks in the country and the only world-class standard fencing specific facility in the UK. The facilities in Durham complement the £5.5m sports centre which was opened at the University’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton in 2010, with badminton, basketball, volleyball and netball courts, a dance studio and rowing room.