DAVID A Stedall, a volunteer who has guided the TPR English Corner for 11 years, has been selected as one of 8,000 London Olympic torchbearers and will carry the flame through St Laurence on July 19.
The Englishman, 69, had applied to carry the torch in Atlanta in 1996 but received a postcard saying only, “Thank you.”
He had also sought to be a torchbearer in Macao for the Beijing Olympics at the end of 2007, but barely missed out in 12th place out of thousands of applicants.
This time, David’s daughter nominated him to be a torchbearer for the London Olympic Games. “So 40-year dream, third-time lucky,” proclaimed David with a grin. “I’ve been dreaming about it 40 years.”
As a young man, he joined the Rochester Athletic Club. They had the first committee meeting at the house of the club’s president, who was a torchbearer for the 1948 Olympics. David saw an Olympic torch on the wall and took it down, making a wish that, “One day, I’ll carry that.”
Now that his dream has come true, David is both elated and flabbergasted – the chances were quite slim. “I feel very blessed. I’m very lucky and I’m very happy,” he insisted.
It seems that David has a karmic relationship with the Olympics. In Atlanta, he started as a volunteer and then was upgraded to an Olympic Attaché for the Virgin Island, which is part of the UK territories.
Then, he was selected to join the National Olympic Team of Sri Lanka as Olympic Attaché to work with the team chief during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He acted on the chief’s behalf, signed for things, collected team participation medals, escorted team members to events and so on. And on the morning of opening night, he spent four hours looking after a badminton player in the medical centre. He arrived in Beijing on the day the Olympic Village opened about a week before the game started and stayed until after the team left for home.
He was selected for his expertise in management, athletics and things like that, he explained.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Beijing Mayor Liu Qi jointly issued a certificate in recognition and appreciation of his contribution to the success of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad on August 5-24 in Beijing. He also obtained a similar certificate from the Atlantic Olympic Committee in 1996. Additionally, he has two medals respectively from the Olympic committees.
Not only this, when the announcement for Beijing as the next Olympic city was made by former International Olympic President Juan Antonio Samaranch, he was watching the big screen at Wangfujing in Beijing in 2001. “The Olympic City for 2008 is -- Beijing,” the announcement created a surge among people crowded around him. They were so excited that they shook his hands and said excitedly: “Xie xie ni! Xie xie ni!” he recalled.
When he was in the Olympic Village in Beijing, he had a photograph taken while holding a torch hung on the background of the Great Wall. He felt closer to his dream then.
“I have a 40-year dream for carrying the torch, and I don’t give up. I just carry that dream going,” he said.
That may be one of the main reasons why David was selected over many others -- pursuing a dream and never giving up. And the other major reason for his success is just as David explained: “They’re looking for what they call inspirational people. It can just be a person who wants to help others.”
Only 10 years old, David became a St Johns Ambulance cadet in the UK. It was an organisation similar to the Red Cross Society. At age 14, he was the youngest person to qualify for home nursing. He can even help deliver a baby.
“I love first-aid and home nursing,” he smiled.
He has continued throughout his life to help and encourage others where possible. He has offered over seven years’ service as vice chairman of the RNLI Chatham branch, where he coordinated fund raising and community projects. As founding chairman of the British Institute of Management (Kent branch), he created a career guidance scheme in local schools.
His intense love of sport and athletics has also been a driving force. He has been a member of both the Rochester and Kent County Athletic boards, serving as club captain at Rochester, a member of the Kent AAA Committee and as a UK graded field events judge.
Just a week ago he returned from the Wenchuan earthquake-stricken area in Sichuan province, where he volunteered to teach English at a school and lived in a refugee camp for six periods over the past three years.
He also has volunteered in poverty-stricken areas in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, Jiangxi province, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and some areas of Guangdong province as a member of the Macao Club Association.
This civic-minded man feels it is natural to have volunteered at TPR English Corner for 11 consecutive years. He has a simple reason: “I just want to help other people.”
To be part of the torch relay in his home country might be the greatest present for his 70th birthday, which occurs three days before he carries the torch. Kudos to David -- for a dream come true in conjunction with his three-score-and-tenth birthday.
- By Betty Lin, Zhuhai Daily