Celebrity William fires up Marlborough’s very own Olympic flame

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

William Copp with Mark PharoahWilliam Copp with Mark Pharoah“I feel like a celebrity,” said 17-year-old William Copp as he sat in the sunshine in his wheelchair clutching his golden Olympic torch and talked to admirers galore.

And he certainly was the focus last night (Friday) as, four hours ahead of the official launch in London that was beamed round the world, Marlborough had its very own flaming Olympic fun.

And there to share it with him was Olympic discus veteran Mark Pharoah, now white-haired and 81, who pushed William through an avenue of flag-waving children to light the Olympic flame on its own special plinth in the grounds of Marlborough College.

This was the moment that marked the public opening of the College’s annual Summer School, this week thronged with 1,200 students, scores of children included.

They all wanted to meet William, the St John’s School student who, a fortnight before, had picked up the flame from Olympic champion Michael Johnson in Salisbury and wheeled it ahead on its historic tour of the country.

“Having played a part at the start of the Olympics, and to be a part of the buzz it has created, is something I shall never forget,” William told Marlborough News Online. “It’s a wonderful day.”

“I just feel so honoured to be able to re-live it all over again, it’s great.  It’s marvellous to be able to help the Summer School, which has always played a big part in the Marlborough community for almost decade.”

“And to have the opportunity to help create all this fun for people.”

William will himself be watching the Olympic rowing at Eton tomorrow (Sunday) and has tickets too for his own sport, wheelchair basketball.

“That’s so close to my heart and will be wonderful to see,” he added.  “All this inspires me to get back into wheelchair basketball.  Since all this Olympic event has unravelled it has made me want to train much harder and get back into the gym and the sports hall.”

For Mark Pharoah, from Great Malvern, who recalls the last London Olympics in 1948 and competed in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and those at Melbourne in 1956, it meant looking back 60 years.

That was when was a  discus competitor, missing a bronze medal by in Australia by 13cms with a British record throw of 54.27 metres, and also competing international for Britain as a shot putter and hammer thrower.

“So much has changed,” he said.  “So I have mixed feelings because the Olympics are such an extravaganza now.  But I can’t say I regret the commercialism because I think it was inevitable.  That’s what they call progress.”

He believes today’s Olympics don’t extol the same quality of pure competition.  “Amateurism has turned into professionalism and people are now full-time athletes,” he explained.

“They were happy days in my time, they were different, not so specific and selfish.  What we used to do was to enjoy international matches.”

“During the season GB would go to Czechoslovakia, to France and Germany to complete and they were great fun.”