Torch relay is recognition for local heroes

By @ibtimes on

Trekking across the Sahara desert was easy compared to the stress Simon Brown says he will face when he carries the Olympic torch for a brief moment on the road to London next year.

Blinded by a bullet after being shot in the head while saving the lives of six colleagues on active service in Iraq in 2006, the former soldier has spent the past five years rebuilding his life.

His skull shattered, Brown spent months in rehabilitation and endured dozens of operations.

On Thursday, the Sheffield-based 32-year-old was one of the first to be nominated to carry the torch on its 70-day, 12,800-km journey around Britain before the Games opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on July 27.

It's recognition of how far I've managed to come and what I've managed to do to rebuild my life, Brown told Reuters at a presentation at the Tower of London with LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe.

I have spent five years trying to get back my dignity and my manner and my confidence. If this isn't recognition of that, I'm never going to get it, added Brown, who has 15 percent vision in his right eye.

The left was covered by a Union Jack contact lens.

Brown completed a 100-km trek across the Sahara in October to raise money for injured soldiers and next year plans to walk Costa Rica coast-to-coast. Carrying the torch, he said, would be more nerve-racking.

There's no pressure in the Sahara. If I fell over, I fell over, he said.

But when the world's media is watching you run with the flame that never goes out, that's a lot more pressure I think. Closer to the time the butterflies will kick in and the heart will pull through the chest and I'll be a bit more nervous.

Some 8,000 people will carry the torch next year, with 90 percent of them nominated through public campaigns. The remainder will be by invitation.

The 6,800 offered a place on Thursday must now accept the date and provide further information as well as pass background checks. Final confirmation will be by March.

I really wanted those that...ran with the torch, which is a massive moment, to have really made a difference to and in the communities in which they live, said Coe.

The double Olympic gold medallist said he wanted to use the relay to punch through some of the mythology and misapprehension about what young people are doing.

We have described it as a moment to shine and that is really what this torch relay is about, he said.

Brown had no doubt about that.

As a soldier, I've seen what happens when people don't get on, he said. I've seen the other side of the coin on the battlefield and to see humanity do this sort of thing, it's just uplifting to be part of it.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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