OLYMPIC fever hit Bolton by Julian Thorpe last night as the official mascots of the games — and their close links with our town — were revealed to the world after months of secrecy.
Bolton was one of only four places around the country to host a prestigious launch event, which coincided with the first screening of a specially created Olympic mascot film on national TV.
The film, in the form of a children’s fairytale, revealed yesterday at Bolton Arena that the mascots were born in Bolton — created from the same steel which is being used to build the Olympic Stadium in London.
The idea, turned into a story by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, is inspired by the fact that Horwich firm Watson Steel Structures is building the steel structure of the stadium.
The company, based in Lostock Lane, won the multimillion- pound contract to create the 80,000-seat arena two years ago.
It will also create the structure of the handball arena, the velodrome, the basketball arena and the aquatic centre.
The decision to link Bolton to the Olympics using the mascots and Watson Steel was last night hailed as a coup for the town.
New mayor, Cllr John Byrne, in his first public engagement since taking office, said: “I hope this is going to be a sensation for Bolton — something we can really be proud of.
“Having the launch event here in Bolton is great, and hopefully something really big will come out of this.
“It’s the biggest sporting event we’ve had in this country since the World Cup in 1966, and to be linked with that is fantastic.”
Iain Hill, Watson Steel’s design director, said: “It’s fantastic for us — it’s provided work for our workforce in this difficult economic climate, but beyond that it’s the prestige to be associated with such an iconic stadium and what is a worldwide event.
“I think the people of Bolton should be proud.”
The mascots, named Wenlock and Mandeville, are seen as an important part of the Olympics — not just to capture the imagination of the public — but to generate cash through merchandise sales.
At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, $320 million of mascot-related merchandise was sold.
The animated film, called Out of a Rainbow, tells the story of a Bolton steel worker, called George, who, on his last day at work before retirement, picks up two lumps of steel from the factory floor and takes them home as keepsakes.
Unable to sleep, he gets up in the middle of the night and fashions the lumps into the mascots.
He then gives them to his children, who are delighted to see them magically come to life and begin acting out Olympic sports in their bedroom.
Until last night, only a handful of people had seen the film — but within minutes of the film being shown in Bolton it was on YouTube, watchable by millions of people around the world. A select group of Bolton dignitaries, sports personalities and schoolchildren were among the lucky few to be invited to the first screening.
The event was kicked off with a gymnastics display by a group of young girls from the Bolton Arena gymnastics club, and Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle was there to give them a few words of encouragement. She said: “The mascots are a massive thing. Everyone wants to collect them—including me. I’ve got all the mascots from all the games I’ve been to.”
● You can watch the video of the launch on The Bolton News' website. Visit the boltonnews.co.uk