Fans left in the dark by ‘phantom torch’

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HUNDREDS of people hoping to bask in the glow of the Olympic Flame were left disappointed after being distracted by another torchbearer making his way to the start of the next leg.

The “phantom torchbearer” was being escorted through the centre of Beverley on Monday when crowds, who were lining the streets five-deep, mistook his unlit torch for the real thing and began cheering and taking photographs.

The torchbearer, Haydn Pitchforth, 45, from Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, responded by waving back and holding the torch above his head before passing out of sight on his way to Butcher Row.

Many of those watching, including children taking advantage of the decision to close their schools early, went home not realising the lit torch, being proudly carried by 64-year-old Beverlonian Michael Nicholson, was just coming into view.

Retired teacher Anthony Nicholson, 73, who went to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, was one of those who missed out and only realised what had happened when he walked past a television shop and saw live pictures of the real torch coming into Saturday Market.

He said: “People started cheering and he was waving to the crowd and holding the torch aloft, but as he passed me I thought where’s the flame?

“Somebody said ‘Is that it?’ and a policeman said ‘Yes, that’s it’, so people started to disappear. It was a complete fiasco, hundreds of people came away disappointed.”

Organisers said Mr Haydn was on foot because the shuttle bus which normally transports torchbearers could not negotiate the narrow streets.

A spokeswoman for London 2012 said: “As planned, the Torchbearer was walked down the street to his start position by a member of staff. He was clearly excited about being part of the Relay and responded to the encouragement of the crowd. It is a shame that some spectators assumed that the Torch was lit when it wasn’t, but we will do our best to share the photos of the day to ensure people have a record of the Olympic Flame passing through Beverley.”