Some of Britain’s Olympic torchbearers have been making the most of their country’s special moment — by selling their torches on eBay, attracting bids of over £150,000 ($237,000, 186,000 euros).
The gold-coloured torches began appearing on the auction website within hours of the torch relay starting in southwest England on Saturday, and one torchbearer said Monday she had received a final bid of £153,000.
Each of the 8,000 runners — chosen for their “inspirational” personal achievements or contribution to local communities — can buy their torch for £215, discounted from the £495 cost price, a London 2012 spokeswoman told AFP.
One torch, used on Saturday and billed as “an amazing sporting souvenir — be one of the first to have one!” was attracting bids of over £30,000 on Monday, while another seller was asking a minimum of £145,000.
Organisers said they were powerless to stop the sales.
“It’s up to the torchbearer to do what they want with their torches. We just hope they end up in a good home,” said the London 2012 spokeswoman.
“The majority of people are looking to keep them as a souvenir of their participation in the torch relay.”
Sarah Milner Simonds, who will carry the flame on Monday after being chosen for her community gardening work, told BBC television she had received a final bid of £153,000.
She sold her torch in advance, with the buyer to take possession after her run.
“It only occurred to me to do it on Saturday night,” she said Monday.
“The sale closed last night at 10 o’clock and the final bid was £153,000,” Simonds added, although she admitted she needed to check the bid was genuine.
She said she had received abusive emails from people who objected to her decision.
“Obviously it has really upset people but I think that it’s not something that is really me to keep my shiny trophy on a mantelpiece, when it is obvious how much good one can do with the money,” she said.
The Times newspaper said in an editorial: “It does seem a shame that the honour of carrying the flame should be so fleeting before it is turned into a harder currency.”
One torchbearer, whose son has cerebral palsy, said he would divide the proceeds of selling his torch between a disability charity, a donation to a hospital that treated his son, and financing his son’s care.
The torchbearers, who pass the Olympic flame — a symbol of purity One — from one torch to another, are running alongside sports stars and celebrities on the 10-week, 8,000-mile (12,875 kilometres) relay.
The flame will travel around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and visit the Republic of Ireland in the run-up to the Games, which start on July 27. It was flown to Britain after being lit in Ancient Olympia in Greece.
The distinctive British-designed, 800-millimetre (2.6-foot)-long triangular torch, made from an aluminium alloy, is perforated by 8,000 circular holes that represent the torchbearers.