By Kevin Benson, Ben Burrows & Ian Silvera
Mancunians turned out in their thousands to get their own taste of the London 2012 spirit as the Olympic torch journeyed its way through the city on Saturday.
Over 10,000 packed in to Albert Square to watch as 25-year-old Carl Tilson lit the Olympic cauldron as the ancient flame came to rest in the city centre.
Carl’s mother Linda Tilson, 66, expressed her joy at her son’s role in delivering the flame to the podium outside of Manchester Town Hall.
“I’m really proud of Carl - it’s bought me to tears,” she said. “He’s done so much for charity he’s an inspirational young man and he really deserves this.”
Carl suffers with the muscle wasting disease Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and has helped to raise thousands for charity.
Last year he was named Mancunian of the Year ahead of much more well-known celebrity candidates such as Ryan Giggs and Gary Barlow.
PROUD MOMENT: Carl Tilson lights the Olympic cauldron in Albert Square
Thousands of people also lined Deansgate as Olympic hero and four-time gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy took charge of the flame while hundreds swarmed to Corporation Street where American-born singer-songwriter Leehom Wang carried the flame into Exchange Square.
Sabrina Jones, 37, said: “It’s a great day for the people of Manchester – this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s great that we have been a part of it.
“I’m really looking forward to the Olympics. Although I’m not going to any events in London, I have been able to get tickets to a few events up here, I can’t wait.”
Manchester City Council’s Naeem Hassan was delighted to see so many people turn out and was proud of the city’s continued contribution to the nation’s sport.
“This is Manchester’s moment to shine,” he said.
“With a long tradition of world class achievers in the arts, music and industry, above all our local people are united in their dedication to sport, the Olympic values of friendship, success and excellence find a home here on a daily basis.”
He added: “We like to do things differently here, peace, friendship and together are part of Manchester and this event highlights how strongly we are bound by sporting excellence.”
Ex-Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere was MC for the celebration event in the square with the Halle Youth Choir and newcomers The Tribes providing the entertainment for those lucky enough to have a place in the crowd.
The celebration concert was brought to a close with a rousing performance from Manchester’s-own The Courteeners as the rain finally began to fall.
The torch will be carried by 8,000 specially selected people as it journeys the length and breadth of the UK before arriving at the Olympic Park in August.