THOUSANDS of people braved the early morning to wave farewell to the Olympic Torch in Bolton.

Hundreds of enthusiastic schoolchildren lined the town hall steps from 5am to wave the torch off as it made its way through Bolton town centre, to Horwich and onwards to Chorley on day 14 of its tour around the country.

The Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Guy Harkin, told the crowds in Victoria Square that it was a “proud day for Bolton”.

“It has been our moment to shine over the last 24 hours and I have really enjoyed it.

“This morning we wave goodbye to the flame but it leaves behind an unforgettable legacy.”

Bolton swimmer Antony Evitts, aged 16, proudly carried the torch down the steps to deafening cheers from the crowd and an explosion of colourful streamers over Victoria Square.

Hi proud mum Tara Evitts said watching her son walk down the steps with the torch was “more than I could have ever imagined”.

“I am so proud and there were so many people there, it was wonderful,” she added.

Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton, said the torch relay had been “wonderful”.

“I am proud of our town and everybody else should be proud of it too. This has been Bolton at its best, it has showcased Bolton and it proves that we are the friendliest town in the country,” he added.

Canon Slade pupil, 14-year-old Charlotte Mikolajewski, said standing on the Town Hall steps as the torch arrived was a”once in a lifetime experience”.

“I was so happy to be there in front of so many people, it was such a good atmosphere and when the torch came on the stage it was really exciting.”

The Torch is travelling the length and breadth of the UK before the Olympic Games.

Bolton was chosen as just one of seven places in the North West where it would be overnight — a huge honour for the town.

As Olympic swimming silver medalist Martyn Woodroffe got closer yesterday, more and more people flocked to the square to catch a glimpse of the Torch.

Children and adults started jumping up and down and erupted into applause and cheers as Mr Woodroffe waved to the crowd from a raised platform.

Homemade Olympic Torches, Union flag hats and flags were waved as the Torch arrived to an appropriate fanfare from Once Corus Brass.

As the bearer descended from the platform to leave the square the applause got louder.

Several people had tears in their eyes as the athlete left.

Within minutes the long awaited moment was over and the delighted crowd started to disperse. Father and son duo Graham and James Edgington drew the attention of a number of people from the crowd to continue the party atmosphere with a rendition of New York, New York.

As the event drew to a close used flags and red, white and blue streamers — dotted around the square — left people with a lasting reminder of the once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Organisers of the Olympic Torch relay estimate 95 per cent of the population live within one hour of the route.

It started its 70-day journey on May 19 and will end at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, when it will light the cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Games.

The Torch will have been carried by 8,000 torch bearers by the time it reaches the stadium in Stratford.