Olympic torch in Leeds: 40,000 greet symbol at Temple Newsam

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All corners of the community helped to transform Leeds’s Temple Newsam Park into a cauldron of flame-craving patriots.

The centre-piece of Leeds’s three-day welcoming of the Olympic torch brought more than 40,000 flag-waving residents out to celebrate the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics.

Aaron Bell lighting the cauldron with the Olympic Flame at Temple Newsam.

Aaron Bell lighting the cauldron with the Olympic Flame at Temple Newsam.

On an unexpectedly sun-drenched day, 13-year-old Aaron Bell brought the iconic flaming torch from Temple Newsam House to a specially-erected arena stage and cauldron.

The youngster, from Halifax, who is a black belt in karate, was selected as one of the 8,000 Olympic torch bearers due to his work encouraging other children to enjoy the sport.

He told the YEP: “I just feel amazing really, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I can’t believe I got chosen to do that run.

“I would be happy just to hold the Olympic torch let alone run into Temple Newsam stadium with it.”

Aaron, whose ambition is to become a world champion, was joined on stage by more than a dozen youngsters from the Olympic Children’s Promise scheme, who were born on December 20 2004 (20/12).

Olympic medallists including former hockey player Norman Hughes and runner Derek Ibbotson as well as the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, also took to the stage to welcome Aaron.

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Thousands of visitors lined the paths to get a glimpse of the flame as the youngster jogged past with it, before he lit the gleaming cauldron to rapturous applause.

Coun Castle said: “Today has been extra special, the flame has been on an exciting tour of Leeds and I’m delighted so many people have had the chance of a lifetime.”

The event was put together by Olympic torch sponsors Coca Cola, Lloyds TSB, Samsung, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and other supporting sponsors.

Spectators were given free beat pads, inflatables and ribbons to express themselves as some top entertainment, from dance to acrobatics and rock music to a community choir, was put before them.

It was one of four major concerts to take place across the UK as part of the torch tour, during which 66 nights of celebration are lighting up the flame’s journey.

Coun Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for leisure, said: “It is a bit like the jubilee, whatever your thoughts are, people just want to get out and be together.

“Now the Olympics are in sight, people are just getting more and more excited about it.”

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