Punjab-born Fauja Singh, who defies the age to run marathons, drew the loudest cheers of all the athletes and sportspersons, who carried the Olympic Torch, through the streets of London on a bright and sunny Saturday.
Clad in an all-white apparel and a matching white turban, the
sprightly Singh carried the torch accompanied by hundreds of admirers, including Sikhs with yellow T-shirts bearing Singh's image, who hailed him every moment of the distance he travelled.
Born in 1911, Singh began running at the age of 86 to keep himself occupied. He has since set several records for people his age, running six London marathons, two Canada marathons and the New York marathon.
Clearly a bit of a sensation for his achievements, his participation in the relay today was described by admirers and onlookers as "a moment of history". Singh, who carried the Olympics Torch in Athens eight years ago, now wants to carry it before the 2016 Olympics too, when he will be 105.
Hundreds of Sikhs organised a 'langar' at 16 points along the torch relay en-route to celebrate Fauja Singh's efforts. The torch from Greenwich to Waltham Forest was carried by several Olympians, including Nadia Comaneci, and Indian-origin individuals who have excelled in various fields, such as
Kaushali Trivedi (23), Natasha Sinha (15), Priya Rajgor (20) and Dhrashti Shah (16). The relay's youngest and oldest (Fauja Singh) were among the 143 torch-bearers today.
The youngest was Chester Chambers, 12, who was nominated for representing his classmates, fundraising and helping to develop an anti-bullying campaign. Saturday was the first day of the Olympics Torch's seven-day tour of London in the final countdown to the games. Hopes that the constant rains of the last few weeks will give way to sunshine during the Olympics were realised, as Saturday's relay was held under a clear sky.
United Sikhs, the charity organisation that organised the 'langar', distributed thousands of 'roti rolls' along the torch relay route. The 'langar' was held to "celebrate the wonderful achievements of this under-spoken treasure of the Sikh community", organisers said.
Parvinder Kaur, manager of the 'langar' project, said: "We are proud to share with the public the 500-year-old Sikh tradition of serving free meals to celebrate the carrying of the Olympic Torch by Bhai Fauja Singh".
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