Going for Gold

Crowds at last year's Illuminations Switch On 2011.
Crowds at last year's Illuminations Switch On 2011.
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IT is usually a famous pop star or a top comedian. Not this year.

As revealed by The Gazette yesterday, Blackpool Illuminations will be switched on by the Olympians who lit up the country – final proof as if it were needed London 2012 truly did grip the nation.

London 2012 gold medal

London 2012 gold medal

Medal heroes Beth Tweddle, Greg Rutherford and Luke Campbell will take to the stage at the Tower Festival Headland on Friday, August 31 to flick the famous switch and light up the town.

And it has been hailed a fantastic coup by the resort’s hoteliers.

Mick Grewcock, who owns holiday apartments in Bispham, said: “This is going to be the best lights Switch-On in a long, long time. It’s a massive boost to the town in terms of publicity and better still, what fantastic role models.

“It makes a complete change to having a pop star. Instead we will have normal people who have put a hell of a lot of effort in for years to get to where they have.”

More than 20,000 people are expected to gather for the biggest party of the year, with this year’s event already extra special – it is 100 years since the Illuminations began.

Blackpool singer Karima Francis, X-Factor winners Little Mix, Amy McDonald, Paloma Faith and Scouting For Girls are among the acts performing.

But it’s the Olympians getting people talking.

Gary Pretty, chairman of hoteliers’ group Blackpool Combined Association, believes it is an inspired choice.

Mr Pretty said: “It’s the pop stars that tend to draw big crowds but after what happened, the 
Olympians are almost like pop stars now.

“This is one of the biggest nights of the year anyway. Locals and holiday-makers alike look forward to it and I think this year’s switch-on choice will go down well.”

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Twelve months ago Keith Lemon turned on the Illuminations.

That choice was controversial, some believing Lemon wasn’t a big enough name.

In the end, the TV comic won most over by getting into the spirit of things and mingling with locals

But with the glorious Olympics still fresh in the mind, there’s no doubting this year’s booking has created more of a positive stir.

Tweddle won bronze in the gymnastics, while Rutherford became the first Briton to win gold in the high jump since 1964. Campbell also struck gold, in the boxing ring.

Claire Smith, President of Stay Blackpool, is excited about the choice.

She said: “It is a bit different but we are between the Olympics and the Paralympics, there is lots of public interest in it.

“Perhaps it will bring in people who wouldn’t normally come and the line up of pop stars should make it a great night.”

Visit Blackpool, organisers of this year’s Illuminations alongside Real and Smooth Radio – who will broadcast the Switch-On party live on radio and online, were criticised by some for taking too long to name who will switch on this year’s lights.

But Mr Grewcock said they deserve praise for getting it right.

He added: “We are always blaming them for revealing who is doing the switch on too late, but this time waiting till the last minute has worked in our favour. Well done to them for keeping their nerve and holding out.”

Mrs Smith said: “It would be nice if they had announced it slightly earlier because it is much easier to market, but it will still be a great night.”

The Illuminations will shine from August 31 to Sunday November 4. More than 3m tourists are expected to flock to the resort to see them.

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