Olympic torch makes stop at Olympiad football pitch in middle of Scottish forest

By Damien Murphy | 15 June 2012
a photo of a man heading a football next to a man holiding the Olympic torch
Relay runner Thomas Holligan, 18, made a special departure from the official route to carry a torch round this remarkable sporting arena at 1.45pm on June 14© Photo Angela Catlin
The Olympic torch departed from its official route on Thursday to visit an extraordinary football pitch, hewn out of spruce woodland in the Scottish Borders.

Forest Pitch, the work of Edinburgh-based artist Craig Coulthard, is one of 12 public art projects across the UK to mark the Cultural Olympiad, which runs in tandem with the London Olympics.

Two matches, between teams made up mainly of new Scots from far flung reaches of the globe, will be played on the pitch on Buccleuch Estate, near Selkirk, on July 21.

For Coulthard, who was inspired by childhood memories of playing football in a forest, the project explores what it means to be British at a critical period in Scottish history.

“Right now the country is in a period of incredible change, and Forest Pitch is all about what it means to be Scottish, and to be part of Scottish culture, in the 21st century," he says.

“I’m absolutely delighted that it’s taking place near Selkirk which has played such a vital historical role in defining the borderlands, and the character, of our country.”

The pitch took more than two years to create, using topsoil from Gala Fairydean’s ground in nearby Galashiels, and the felled timber being reused for shelter, seating, changing rooms and goal posts.

After the matches, native trees will be planted along the pitch lines to grow into a living, lasting natural sculpture that will emerge from the surrounding forest.

His ancestors are from Selkirk, feels that the arrival of the torch has created a powerful link between his project, the area, and all the other Olympic events.

On match day, the teams – playing in strips designed by Scottish schoolchildren – will be named after the locations of ancient Greece’s Pan-Hellenic games - Olympia, Nemea, Delphi and Corinth.

Torch relay runner, Tom Holligan, 18, from Edinburgh, said: “I think Forest Pitch is a brilliant idea. Football is Scotland’s national sport and it’s a great way for people who are new to our country to get involved with our culture.”

With little more than a month to go before the matches Forest Pitch, prospective players can still sign up to play on the day.

Around 1,000 spectators will watch the woodland match and live online commentary will bring the football out of the forest and to the world.

  • Tickets £3.50-£15, under-5s free.

a photo of an Olympic torchbearer and man dribbling a football across a football pitch surrounded by trees
© Photo Angela Catlin
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