POLICE forces are preparing to welcome the Olympic torch as it passes through the North-East next week.
Planning for the torch relay, which comes through Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland between June 14 and 18, has been well underway for several months.
Forces have been working closely with a range of partner organisations to ensure a safe and seamless passage through the region.
The torch enters Northumbria from Scotland on the afternoon of June 14. It will travel across the region, through Northumbria, County Durham and Darlington, leaving Cleveland on the morning of Monday, June 18.
The responsibility of police is to prevent crime and disorder and to work with the local authorities to ensure the safety of those enjoying the event, which will see the torch travel through Hartlepool, east Durham and Billingham on Sunday, June 17.
Northumbria Assistant Chief Constable Steve Ashman, who is leading the policing operation for Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland, is looking forward to welcoming the torch after months of preparation.
Asst Chief Con Ashman, who is a fromer district commander of Hartlepool Police, said: “We’re committed to helping deliver a safe and secure Olympic torch relay, working with neighbouring forces and all our partners to ensure a fantastic event ahead of the main Games.
“We’ve also been working with the Metropolitan Police who are responsible for the security of the torch and with LOCOG, the Olympic Games organisers.
“We’ve a wealth of experience in delivering major public events and have put in place structures for national co-ordination and command at a regional and local level.
“This will ensure we manage the complexity of the torch relay as it crosses boundaries and borders.
“We’ve been watching the relay as it travels across the country and it’s fantastic to see so many people coming out to see the spectacle.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all the torchbearers and it’s our job to ensure they enjoy their moment in safety and security.
“However, our priority is to strive to ensure that the torch and the stories of those who carry it are the centre of attention, not our policing. We will be professional in our duty, wherever possible remaining in the background.
“The wider communities can also be reassured that it will be policing as normal across the force areas throughout the torch relay and our day to day business won’t be affected.”