Rotarians carry the Olympic torch
Rotarian Bob Izon carries the Olympic torch through Hereford, England, in May. Photo courtesy of Bob Izon
In 1958, Bob Izon ran the mile in world-record time in the under-16 age category, becoming the English schools champion.
But the most meaningful run of his life took place in May, when the founding member of the Rotary Club of Hereford Wye Valley, Herefordshire, England, carried the Olympic torch through his hometown.
Izon is one of several Rotarians who have carried the torch on its relay to the new Olympic Stadium in London for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics on 27 July.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have been chosen, as half the bearers are ages 15 to 25,” he says. “It gave me a chance to pursue three objectives: inspire the younger generation, publicize Rotary’s good works, and show that a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease does not always condemn one to a nonactive life.”
Izon was diagnosed with the disease in 1992 but has remained active as a Rotarian, a justice of the peace, and a school board member at St. Paul’s Church of England Primary School in Hereford.
The school’s students and their parents lined the road on 24 May for Izon’s portion of the torch relay. Members of his club bore a huge banner publicizing Rotary and their upcoming charity duck race. During an all-school assembly the next day, students spent more than two hours taking turns holding the torch that had carried the flame and having their photographs taken.
“The atmosphere within the school hall was highly emotional, and quite a few of us were close to tears,” recalls Izon. “This was truly the most remarkable week in the 144-year history of the school.”
Izon’s Parkinson’s is now largely under control. In 2003, he participated in a trial procedure at the University of Birmingham Hospital, in which electrodes were placed in his brain, alleviating many of the symptoms.
He has continued to participate in Rotary service projects. Serving as a volunteer dentist on a medical mission to help Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong years ago, he says, reminded him that millions lack access to health care.
“Having Parkinson’s, being a school governor, being a Rotarian, these have all combined to give me an effective message,” he says. “I can say to the kids, don’t give in, and they believe it.”
Ken Logan, a member of the Rotary Club of Braids, Lothian, Scotland, ran his segment of the relay in June. He was nominated in part for his role in an Edinburgh charity that delivers aid to Bosnia, for which he has raised over £10,000 through marathons and long-distance swimming.
Mike Thorn, a member of the Rotary Club of Cheam, Greater London, carried the torch through Kent in July.
“It’s an opportunity to be part of history. It’s priceless, and it doesn’t get much better than this,” says Thorn. “It’s the nearest thing to running in the Olympics.”
Learn more about Rotary and the Olympics on the website of Rotary International in Great Britian and Ireland.