Residents of south-eastern South Australia came out in force to watch the Olympic Torch Relay as it has made its way from historic Murray Bridge to Naracoorte on Monday.

Hundreds of onlookers gathered to watch Torchbearer Tim Edge carry the flame over the Murray River Bridge. Built in 1879, it was the first bridge to span the mighty Murray. One of Australia’s largest river systems, it stretches more than 2600 kilometres and lies across three states. Today, two more bridges bisect the river at Murray Bridge, which has grown to become the largest South Australian town on the water’s edge.

In the early stages of its 287-kilometre trek to Naracoorte, the relay convoy was joined by its unofficial mascot. A golden chariot, decked out in Ancient Greek style, has made unexpected appearances throughout the flame’s Australian journey, to the delight of spectators who have lined the streets.

Jenny Dunn, a talented young softballer, carried the torch into the town of Tailem Bend, a major road and rail centre for the region. Hundreds of balloons were released at each Torchbearer exchange point, while emotions ran high along the route as Vietnam veteran Robin Collett ran in honour of his dying sister.

Next, the relay visited the towns of Coonalpyn and Tintinara, the site of many Aboriginal caves and burial grounds. Once overgrown with dense scrub, the district is now a thriving farming community. Among the Torchbearers in Coonalpyn was Doreen Elliot, who was hurt in a farming accident and has since become heavily involved in local community organisations.

More than 4000 people attended a mid-afternoon celebration in Bordertown, the birthplace of Bob Hawke, who served as Australia’s prime minister between 1983 and 1991. The community cauldron was lit by Bordertown local Michael O’Connell.

There was plenty of atmosphere at the celebration, which featured two-foot high Olympian figures which were tied to hoops in the Olympic colours and put up around the showground. Crowds were entertained throughout the afternoon by performers including Bob Dungey, who wrote a song to mark the flame’s visit to Bordertown.

Departing Bordertown after the boisterous festivities, the relay had a clear run to the large wool-producing town of Naracoorte. The torch was carried underground for the first time, passing through Victoria Fossil Cave — South Australia’s only World-Heritage listed site.

Befitting a town ringed by caves, the theme of the Naracoorte evening celebration was ‘Lighting Nature’s Way’. Entertainment included performances by Bel Canto Singers and the Naracoorte Pipe Band.

Source: SOCOG