Mar 23 2012 by Stuart Wilson, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
A FOREIGN legion is set to carry the Olympic flame through South Ayrshire.
Torch-bearers from Norway, Sweden and Finland are among the line-up who will hit the streets in places like Maybole and Alloway.
And the decision has sparked outrage among community groups, who’ve blasted the decision as “an affront to local people”.
The famous flame arrives in Ballantrae on June 8 before winding its way towards Ayr.
And a range of carriers from far flung venues are set to feature on the bill.
Norwegian Sven Eric Dürr is among the names who will hold the torch aloft in Maybole.
He joins chosen nominees from Dunfermline, Saltcoats and Prestwick.
Not one person from Maybole will be represented in their home town.
And community council chairman, David Kiltie, reckons that’s a slap in the face.
He said: “I thought they wanted people who could be classed as an inspiration in their local communities to come out and carry the torch.
“To bring in someone from another country to carry the torch through Maybole is almost an affront to local people and seems like a wasted opportunity.
“Only one person from Maybole was chosen to carry the torch – and he’s being sent to Girvan.
“Surely it would have made more sense to have him in Maybole?
“The whole thing is quite dispiriting.”
And the picture in Maybole has been repeated throughout South Ayrshire and beyond by organisers LOCOG.
A number of torch bearers will travel from hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of miles to take their place on the route.
One runner will travel from Berwickshire to take part in Ayr – despite the torch visiting his own hometown.
Jari Patama will jet in from the Finish city of Espoo to carry the torch in Maidens, while Ida Ahlbom will head from Vasa in Sweden to join the procession in Alloway.
A number of Ayrshire residents are also involved, including Ayr runner Toni McIntosh, who is heading south to Turnberry to carry the flame.
But it’s believed the unveiling of the diverse list has taken many at South Ayrshire Council by surprise.
We revealed earlier this year how the authority was ploughing £50,000 into the torch procession in a bid to “showcase South Ayrshire”.
However, it now appears that many of the torch-bearers will have no link whatsoever to the region.
Council communications’ chief, Claire Monaghan, said: “It would have been great for all our torch-bearers to have been from South Ayrshire, but we do appreciate the complexities faced by the judging panels in dealing with thousands of nominations from across the country and only a limited number of torch-bearer slots available in each torch-bearing community.
“We know there are many examples of people who would be worthy to carry the torch not just in Maybole but throughout South Ayrshire and I’m sure all our communities will give a very warm welcome to the torch and those carrying the torch – regardless of where they’re from.
A spokeswoman for organisers LOCOG added: “Nominations for torch bearers came from around the world and we tried to accommodate as many as possible.
“Selection panels sat in each region to determine the best possible candidates and, where possible, we tried to have people carrying the torch within an hour of their hometown.”