For sale to highest bidder: the Olympic ideal

THEY are potent symbols of the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, but can now be snapped up alongside second-hand sunglasses, dusty textbooks and chintzy dinner sets.

In a sign that even the Olympic ideals have their price, a handful of torchbearers, who are helping to spirit the Olympic flame the length and breadth of the UK, are selling their golden souvenirs online.

Scores of people who have held aloft the flame on its tour have listed their iconic aluminium torches on eBay. Yesterday afternoon, there were no fewer than 68 torches for sale, with £367,832.49 bid in total so far.

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While some have vowed to donate the proceeds to charity, others look set to make a six-figure profit by auctioning off their mementoes to the highest bidder.

Those selling the items, who include Scots, have invited a flurry of criticism from some of the 8,000 nominated torchbearers, who regard the torch as a family heirloom.

An initial raft of torches appeared on eBay even before the first day of the relay around the UK had been completed, with the first raising over £3,000.

Some torchbearers north of the Border have put their torches on sale on eBay. One, posted late on Sunday evening by a user known as lgillfish1, is selling for £5,300, complete with the uniform they will wear on the day.

Another user, celebrart1, who will carry the torch during the Glasgow leg on 8 June, put their torch on the site yesterday morning. The sale has a minimum price of £999, and proceeds will go to a local children’s hospice.

Some bids are now in excess of £100,000, while others, such as the torch belonging to Sarah Milner Simonds, have already sold for considerably more.

The 38-year-old, who carried the flame through the Devon village of Dunster yesterday, sold her torch in advance, receiving a winning bid of £153,000. She had been nominated for her work as a community gardener for the People’s Plot, and intends to use the money to bolster the coffers of the grassroots project.

Ms Milner has received a torrent of abusive e-mails, but she explained her decision yesterday: “It is an extraordinary amount of money, but when I realised that the first torch was on eBay and sold for over £3,000, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that is obscene, imagine what good you could do with £3,000’.”

However, Jason Murphy, 19, a football referee who carried the torch in Dartmouth, condemned those who chose to sell the torches for financial reasons, branding it as “disgraceful”.

He said: “It’s so precious. It should be a family memento. I plan to make use of it by taking it into schools.”

The torches, which were designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, have a basic value of £495, but their bearers can buy them for just £295.

Organisers of the London Games have no say in what happens to them. LOCOG said: “The torch and uniform are the torchbearer’s to do what they want with. We hope they find a good home.”