Updated: Friday, 5th June 2020 @ 4:07pm

Cash for torches: People who paid to carry Bolton Olympic flame challenged by 'concerned' MP in Parliament

Cash for torches: People who paid to carry Bolton Olympic flame challenged by 'concerned' MP in Parliament

By Jamie Metcalfe

Olympic torch bearers may have bought the privilege and Julie Hillings the MP for Bolton is out to find the truth.

Hillings is not satisfied with the minister’s response to her question in parliament yesterday that expressed the concern that real 'community champions' are being overlooked and sponsors are allowing executive’s to carry the flame.

She said: “I will be writing to the minister and will be speaking with LOCOG to ask about the influence of sponsors, the minister should question the motives of the sponsors and encourage more community champions.”

Hilling has been the Labour MP for Bolton West since 2010, and was previously the president for the Community and Youth Workers Union.

She said in Parliament: “I have been concerned to hear rumours and press reports that some of the community champions selected to carry the torch have been replaced by people who have paid to carry it.”

Many of the torch bearers have been nominated by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and they have been going out looking for community champions with the sponsors.

According to Hugh Robertson, the minister responsible for the Olympics, this is where 'the controversy lies'. 

In response to Hillings’ claim, Robertson said: “LOCOG also wrote to the sponsors, discouraging them from allowing executives to run with the torch and encouraging them to find as many local champions as possible.”

More and more allegations are beginning to appear that the privilege of carry the Olympic torch is being awarded to corporate executives at the expense of real community champions.

James Taylor, a silver medallist hurdler in the Youth Olympics, was told by the Home Office that he had failed background checks, despite the fact he has no criminal record.

In his place the torch was carried by Tom Foley, the UK general manager of Intersport and Christos Angelides, the director of retail giants Next.

It was the Bolton-born boxer Amir Khan who had carried the torch through Hillings constituency and she said: “I am okay with celebrities carrying the torch because it is good for the community, however it’s a huge honor to carry the torch and an honor should not be bought.”

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.