Following the Olympic torch on a virtual tour of England

On May 29 the Olympic torch began an epic 70-day journey that will take it all over England and into Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The 8,000-mile trip will end on July 27 at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.

Catching a glimpse of the torch in real life will be easy for residents of Britain -- the organizers of the Olympic relay say that 95% of Britain’s population will be within a one-hour drive of the torch’s route. The BBC has created an exhaustive webpage that tracks the torch’s journey, even giving the times the torch is expected to enter each town as well as a weather report for that day.

As for non-residents of Britain, we can get in on the fun too. We may not be able to see the torch ourselves, but we can follow its journey thanks to an interactive “story map” created by the geographic information services mapping company ESRI.

ESRI’s map shows all the places that the torch will be stopping, and lets you know where it currently is on its route. Click on a location through which the torch has already passed and you’ll find photos pulled in via a Flickr feed that show what was happening at the town at the time that the torch came through.


The images we saw showed lots of parades, schoolchildren grinning, people cheering, and music and dance performances. (Check out the photos accompanying the torch’s visit to Sennen on the first day of its journey for some great shots of a male dancer rocking hot pink spandex pants).

It takes just a few minutes of clicking around the map and scrolling through photos to get caught up in the pre-Olympic excitement, even if you are sitting in a drab cubicle halfway across the world.

The map was designed by Allen Carroll, former chief cartographer for the National Geographic Society, who now works at ESRI.

While the map is a cool way to visualize the torch’s journey, it’s also a great example of the new ways available to journalists and others to tell stories online.


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