Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch with the Gin Gin torch bearers or family representatives at the anniversary plaque unveiling.
Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch with the Gin Gin torch bearers or family representatives at the anniversary plaque unveiling. Mike Knott

Time will not diminish the flame

THEY may not be able to run a mile in seven minutes, but if you asked any of the men who ran the Gin Gin to Bundaberg leg of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic torch relay, you might be pleasantly surprised.

"I reckon I could still run it, but probably not in seven minutes - I'm as fit as a fiddle," 91-year-old Tom Read said with a chuckle.

Runners' stories like Mr Read's were all shared in the main street of Gin Gin last Wednesday, at the unveiling of the plaque in recognition of the efforts of the 31 runners who laced up for the relay 56 years ago.

Mr Read was 36 at the time of the relay, but just days before he was due to run, he encountered a stroke of bad luck.

"I got the flu and the doctor wouldn't let me run," he said.

"My brother Len ran it for me, from Bullyard right over the old bridge."

A then 26-year-old Stan Hopton ran the Sharon leg of the relay and remembers his days of training leading up to the big day.

"We had to train carrying a 26-ounce bottle of water, holding it upright and to the side as if we were holding the torch," he said.

"We had to run the mile in seven minutes - a feat I'm pleased to say we all achieved."

Years later, in 1980, Mr Hopton and his wife travelled to Europe where they visited the site of the ancient Olympics.

"It made me realise that all of us who ran in the torch relay really were part of something historic," he said.

"I'm sure I speak for all the runners when we say we are privileged to finally see a plaque to honour us in running in the torch relay."

Members for the 1956 Torchbearers Commemorative Club, based in Rockhampton, attended the unveiling, as well as the families of the gentlemen who ran.

Division Three councillor Wayne Honor, whose father and uncle were both part of the team, said the plaque was a fitting tribute to the men who ran on November 14, 1956.

"The Melbourne Olympics is one of the greatest sporting events ever held in Australia, and those who ran the torch relay are part of the momentous sporting moment," he said.



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