Hands-on leaders greet torch relay

Games procession honours heroes, athletes, v-cs and pro v-cs. Paul Jump reports

July 5, 2012

Credit: Getty
Swifter, higher, more senior: torchbearers include UK university heads

The 8,000 people whose willingness to "go the extra mile" has been rewarded with the opportunity to carry the Olympic Torch include a paratrooper who lost both legs in Afghanistan, a police officer forced to retire by gunshot wounds and a young girl with Down's syndrome.

But it seems that senior university managers are also getting in on the act as the relay winds its way towards the start of the London 2012 Olympics at the end of the month.

In total, 31 universities have each been given three "torchbearer" positions by Olympic sponsors Samsung to distribute to staff, students or members of their community. Samsung's press material says that those chosen for the honour - from nominees co-judged by universities and the sponsor - "reflect the core value of the Olympic movement and the rich heritage of each institution".

Last week, Neil Gorman, vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, carried the torch through Nottingham. In press material announcing the university nomination programme, he expressed his delight that the institution would be able to "offer our students and staff a once-in-a-lifetime experience in recognition of their hard work and contribution to the community".

He said places would be allocated to "students and staff who have demonstrated excellence in teaching, academic and sporting performance".

The university's other two torchbearers were Chloe Jones, who is completing an MA in fashion business despite losing a leg in a hit-and-run incident during her second year, and Emma Vickers, an undergraduate in psychology with sports science, who co-founded Nottingham Trent's unbeaten women's table tennis team.

Professor Gorman's "nomination story" on the London 2012 website lists his academic and professional appointments, as well as awards for contributions to veterinary science.

Manchester Metropolitan University also chose its vice-chancellor, John Brooks, as a torchbearer when the flame came to Manchester last month. No nomination story for him is available, but Samsung's website says he intended to "endorse" his institution's support for the Olympics at one of its pre-Games training camps.

The nomination story of Paul Smith, deputy vice-chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University, cites his oversight of the institution's sporting partnerships, while Chris Day, pro vice-chancellor for the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, is described as a successful clinician and academic who is also a "keen sportsman".

Later this month, Ian Campbell, Brunel University's pro vice-chancellor for student experience and staff development, will carry the torch in the London Borough of Newham.

His nomination story highlights his research into improving the performance of Paralympic athletes.


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