Local residents and councillors in Oxfordshire have criticised the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) for giving so many Olympic torchbearer places in the county to overseas runners backed by the Olympic Games' sponsors. The leader of Oxford's City Council, Bob Price, said it was "disappointing" news.
There have been many celebrity torchbearers in the Olympic relay through the UK including the American music star Will.i.am. The band member from the world-reknowned 'Black-Eyed-Peas' and talent show host of The Voice reality contest here in the UK was a guest torchbearer in Taunton in Somerset. He was cheered on by the crowds as he ran past.
Much of the dissent from Oxfordshire residents comes because around twenty-two Americans, some of them athletes - with no connection to the UK, are being flown in by Games sponsor 'Coca-Cola' to take part in the torch relay - taking up about a third of the places in the torch's route through the county.
LOCOG meanwhile said sponsors like Coca-Cola are important for funding, and that overseas torchbearers are always part of the Olympics to reflect the Games' status as an international event.
“Through our partners and global sponsors a small percentage of runners will come from overseas. We've always been clear this would be the case - the Games are a global event. A small number people from the UK have run overseas in every previous Relay and ours is no different in this respect. Overseas Torchbearers tend to be grouped together for logistical reasons and each will have a story of personal best or will have made a contribution to their community.”
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games issued a statement saying that '90% of the total 8,000 Torchbearer places have been made available to people nominated for a personal best through a number of channels, including the four public nomination campaigns run by LOCOG and the three Presenting Partners of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay: Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. The remaining 10% of places are offered by invitation.' Overall figures released said that: -
33% of places held by LOCOG (total 2,640)
17% of places to each of the three Presenting Partners (total 1360 each)
16% of places shared between the IOC (total 117), BOA (total 250) and other Games commercial partners (total 913).