London Olympic Cauldron Finds a Home In Henley

It has been described as one of the eternal symbols of London 2012 and now it resides in Henley.

The Olympic cauldron has been given a new home at the River and Rowing Museum and was celebrated in style on Monday with the arrival the royal barge Gloriana.

The vessel was rowed from the royal regatta boat tents to the museum by 18 past and present Olympians, including Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins, who won gold in the double sculls last summer.

Watkins, a member of Leander Club, managed to row despite being almost seven months pregnant.

The party was welcomed by four-times gold medallist Matthew Pinsent, who formally accepted the cauldron and a flag from the London Games.

Sir Matthew was on board Gloriana as she carried the Olympic flame from Hampton Court to London last summer.

He said: “The last time I saw this, it was hissing rather dangerously on the bows of Gloriana at Hampton Court but it was a fantastic moment for rowing and the river and it was great to have a vessel like Gloriana deliver the flame to the capital — the culmination of all this thought and preparation that went into the Games.

“It’s brilliant to see a little bit of the legacy delivered to the museum.”

Sir Matthew, who is honorary vice-president of the museum, added: “The rowing history is special to many of us and 2012 added another chapter at the top of the stairs.

“This is such a fitting extra chapter to have literally sitting here and within sight and touch of the next generation of people who want to come through this wonderful place.”

Paul Mainds, chief executive of the museum, said the cauldron truly “belonged” in its river gallery.

“Royal barges are part of the narrative of the river and celebration on the river is part of the national story,” he said.

“The Gloriana and that evening of the opening ceremony were a magical memory in many people’s minds and we felt this was the place for it.

“This display tells the story of both the Gloriana and of that event and we’re very proud to have been given it.” Bill Morris, former director of ceremonies for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said the museum was chosen to have the cauldron because Henley was one of the world’s great capitals of sporting excellence.

“It’s one of the hearts of British Olympic and Paralympic success, pretty much more than anywhere else, and is the home — natural, spiritual or adopted — of many of our greatest Olympians,” he said.

“It’s also home of this wonderful museum, which so elegantly and effectively combines celebration with education and it tells stories beautifully.”

Mr Morris recalled the “remarkable” day last July when the Olympic torch was carried by Sir Steve Redgrave in an eight down the Thames from the museum to Leander Club.

He said: “We certainly can never forget and I think millions more won’t forget the time when this particular cauldron sat rather elegantly on the bows of Gloriana on arrival in London before its final journey to the Olympic Park.

“London was really looking at its best, the river banks were thronged with people and there was that sense of anticipation for the Games to come.

“By putting the cauldron here, and the way in which Paul and his team will curate it, gives us the maximum opportunity of bringing back all those memories and taking them forward as inspiration for generations to come.”

Grainger said: “The Olympic cauldron is such an iconic emblem and symbol of so much from last summer and the fact it’s now going to be in this museum means that people can appreciate it.

“They can come and take photographs of it and see it for real. A lot of schoolchildren come here and it’s really special that it will be in the home of rowing and be seen by so many people.”

Grainger said the Olympians who rowed Gloriana had been reliving last summer.

“The memories are always there but every time we do something like this they get reignited in different ways,” she said.

“Seeing the people again and the cauldron — we’ve been beaming all day because we’re reliving 2012 as if it was yesterday.”

Michael Lapage, 89, a silver medallist at the 1948 London Olympics, rowed Gloriana for a third time after being involved in a row-past at last year’s Henley Royal Regatta and on the row from Hampton Court to London.

“It’s a great privilege to be involved,” he said.

With the arrival of the cauldron, members of local rowing clubs were given a chance to row Gloriana.

Eighteen members of Upper Thames, representing most sections of the club, rowed the barge from Hambleden Lock to the regatta enclosure on Sunday.

The crew saluted their clubhouse as they went past, raising their oars and giving three cheers, which they repeated at the finish line.

Club captain Justin Sutherland said: “While she doesn’t quite have the turn of speed of our club racing boats, she is an imposing sight and as she went up the river almost every person she passed took photographs.

“It was a unique occasion for everyone involved.”

Twenty-two junior members of Henley Rowing Club rowed Glorina from the museum to Marsh Lock and back to her mooring at the regatta.

Article care of  the Henley Standard