2:53pm Thursday 12th July 2012
By Laura Kitching
EXCITEMENT is hotting up for the home Games as today’s Olympic flame arrival gives Dorset a taste of the festivities to come.
Britain’s contenders in the 49er high performance Skiff class Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes hope to witness the spectacle in between last-minute training for the big event.
Helm Morrison, 33, urged residents to turn out with their children, support the county’s inspirational torchbearers and experience the ‘Olympic buzz’.
He said: “Everything I’ve seen so far about the Olympic Torch Relay is fantastic.
“The interest it’s drumming up everywhere is brilliant. If that’s a sign of what’s to come it’s going to be incredible.
“In China we heard a lot about protests surrounding the relay, not exactly a positive reason to be in the news.
“The Olympics should be about inspiring children, celebrating the world’s greatest athletes and all the positive Olympic values.
“We’ve been so flat out and July 30 – our race start – is fixed in our minds but if we can get along and see the torch, it would be phenomenal.
“It’s great for Weymouth and Portland to really fire things into life.
“It’s really important for parents to get down there with their kids and fill them with the Olympic buzz.
“Ben and I were both inspired by the Olympics when we were younger.”
This home Games will be Morrison and Rhodes second Olympic competition.
The Skandia Team GBR duo, who have been friends of 20 years, grew up competing against each other in Cadet dinghies in Exmouth.
With a medal of each colour from the three World Championships preceding their Olympic debut at Beijing 2008, the pair went to China as one of the favourites and were bitterly disappointed to finish ninth.
Bronze at the 2011 Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta earned them selection for last year’s Olympic Test Event, where they narrowly missed out on a medal in the last race.
The pair were forced to withdraw from the 2011 Worlds in Perth, Australia after Rhodes suffered a rib strain midway through the regatta but their strong track record of podium finishes on Weymouth and Portland’s Olympic waters earned them the nod from Royal Yachting Association selectors in April.
Morrison is looking forward to the support from the home crowds.
He said: “There were only a couple of hundred people at the Nothe during the test event and you could really hear the crowd.
“There’s almost 5,000 tickets a day being sold for the Olympics, that’s going to take some getting used to at the Olympics.
“It’s going to be the closest you’ll ever get to feel like sailing in a stadium.
“That’s the special thing that Weymouth can offer, it’s a real natural amphitheatre with the bay and the cliffs.
“It’s going to be great viewing although you’ll probably need a good set of binoculars.
“It should be quite spectacular and hopefully there will be plenty of support for us, being the home team.”
Morrison praised the potential of his British teammates and added: “People are going to be talking about people like Ben Ainslie in 50 years time, we’re very lucky he’s around now.
“He’s like Steve Redgrave, a bit of a phenomenon.
“People in Weymouth and Portland can see him performing at his best, it’s a unique opportunity.”
Exmouth’s Morrison and Rhodes both stay Monday to Friday at RYA Portland House at Osprey Quay, Portland while training.
Morrison said: “My wife and stepchildren and Ben’s fiancée at home are very supportive.
“This is what Ben and I have dreamed of doing for 10 years and not many people get a chance to kind of realistically go and grab their dream and you can’t waste that.
“You’ve just got to go and grab it with both hands.
“It involves an awful lot of commitment from us and a lot of sacrifice from our families so hopefully all the hard work will pay off.
“My family, including my mum and sister from Australia, are coming down to enjoy the atmosphere that hopefully Weymouth’s going to provide.”
He added: “My dad won’t. He says good news will keep and bad news he doesn’t want to know about.”
Morrison described Osprey Quay’s set up with the British team’s gym and performance centre, dinghy park and boat workshops as ‘fantastic’.
He said: “It’s superb down here, we’ve got everything we need literally within a two minute cycle.
“In terms of trying to make sure you are a world-class athlete, everything’s laid on for us.
“It’s perfect, so no excuses.”
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