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East Lancs Olympic torchbearers told to pay to keep own torch
COMMUNITY champions given the opportunity of carrying the Olympic torch are being 'ripped off' by organisers, it has been claimed.
The torch bearers, who have worked tirelessly in their communities and raised thousands of pounds for charity, must fork out £240 to keep their torch.
Haslingden and Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said the fees 'went against the spirit of the Olympic Games' and hero soldier Rick Clement, who will carry the torch in his wheelchair, said the money should go to charity.
A spokesman for the Olympic Committee said the torches were being heavily subsidised and each torch costs £495 to produce.
But if the bearers don't meet tomorrow's deadline, the fee will rise to £260 - excluding the stand which costs an extra £40.
The torch will arrive in East Lancs on Saturday June 23, from Preston and will pass through Mellor Brook, Blackburn, Oswaldtwistle, Accrington and Burnley and on to Rawtenstall.
However, once the bearer has finished their leg of the journey, their torch will be decommissioned and the gas canister will be removed - meaning it can never be re-lit.
Any torches that aren't sold will go into the London 2012 Memorabilia Programme and available for the public to purchase.
Sgt Rick Clement, from Chatburn, who had to have both his legs emputated after stepping on a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, said the question of payment was ‘not unexpected’.
He said: "I don’t actually know where they money is going to - if it was for a good cause then it wouldn’t bother me. But I can understand people are not impressed by this - my wife certainly wasn’t when I told her."
Graham Jones MP said: "It seems like commercialisation of the games and the Olympic Committee are making as much money as they can.
"The nominees have already done wonders for their community and now they are being ripped off for a piece of aluminium.
"There has to be more value placed on people's efforts and contributions than just the return they can get from these individuals both in time and money."
Caitlin Jones, 16, from Darwen, will carry the Olympic flame as it passes through Liverpool on 1 June.
The caring teenager has raised more than £20,000 for various charities since the death of her father four years ago.
Her mum Tracy said: "It was a shock when we saw the price.
"When you think it's going to be a heirloom, not only for Caitlin, but for the people of Darwen then it's cheap.
"But for a 16-year-old girl who doesn't have a part-time job it's a lot of money.
"You would think they would give the torch to the runners. She is so used to raising money for others and she has found it really hard raising money for herself."
Danny Maynard, 19, of Brighton Terrace, Darwen, will be running in Batley, West Yorkshire, on June 25.
Danny, who works for McDonalds in Blackburn Town Centre, will have his torch purchased for him by his employer.
He said: "It was a shock when I saw the price. I think you should be able to keep it. A lot of people nominated are volunteers and can't afford to pay that."
Simon Foster, 28, of Clough Street, Darwen, applied for his niece Madison Allan to become a torch bearer through Coca Cola - one of the Games' sponsors.
Simon will be running in her memory through the streets of Preston on June 23.
He said: "I'm really lucky that Coca Cola are purchasing it for me. I really hope Caitlin is successful in raising the money. It's going to be a piece of history."
Ian Garside, 59, of Old Clough, Weir, also intends to buy his torch. He said: "It is expensive but how many opportunities are you going to have to get something like this? It's something to keep for future generations."
Darwen Town Council have agreed to pay half of the money towards the purchase of the torches, for those bearers from the town.
Coun Trevor Maxfield said: "It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the runners themselves."
Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry, who nominated Caitlin for the relay, said: "I think it's really important that the torch stays in Darwen. I wish Caitlin luck with her fundraising but I will personally make up any shortfall towards the torch so it can be put on display in the library."