The Olympic Torch Relay crossed the border into Victoria on Day 42 of its Australian odyssey on Wednesday.
The day’s activities kicked off early, with the relay entourage leaving the South Australian town of Mount Gambier before 7am. Reaching the state border, the flame was farewelled by police, locals and a few inquisitive cows.
Torch Relay General Manager Di Henry carried the flame into Victoria inside a safety lantern. The first Victorian town on the relay route was Casterton, nestled deep in the Grampians, a series of three sandstone ranges in the west of the state. Almost all of the small village’s 2000 residents turned out to observe as a bagpipe player welcomed Breanne Remmos, the state’s first Torchbearer.
Also among the Torchbearers in Casterton was 16-year-old Emily Rooke, who has represented Victoria 17 times in several sports. She carried the flame through the centre of town, which was home of the first Aboriginal cricket team to tour England.
Verna McIntosh, a past Australian Olympic representative in athletics, brought the flame into the town of Coleraine, the site of bloody conflicts between Aboriginals and early European settlers many years ago. It is also where, as a young Polish immigrant, Helena Rubenstein worked her uncle’s grocery store before becoming the founder of a major cosmetics empire.
Beginning around 12.30pm, the daily lunch celebration was held in Hamilton, which is known unofficially as the ‘Wool Capital of the World’ for its prosperous merino wool-growing industry. It is also the birthplace of Ansett Airlines, set up by Sir Reginald Ansett in 1937.
During the festivities, which featured bands, choirs and dance troupes, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks officially welcomed the flame to Victoria in front of a crowd of more than 1000 people.
In a shower of rain, the state’s first community cauldron was lit by Graeme Wilkinson, a former Victorian road cycling champion who returned to cycling after overcoming a brain haemmorhage and has become an active member of the community.
The relay passed throught the towns of Branxholme, Condah and Heywood before settling in Portland for the night. The flame travelled via a Cadet boat to reach the evening celebration neare Henty Beach. Entertainment included an Aboriginal dance group and a children’s choir.