An Olympic torchbearer who auctioned her torch to raise money for a community organisation has said she was not prepared for the number of "abusive, offensive and filthy messages" she received as a result.
Torchbearers are being asked to pay about £200 to keep the torch they carry. Sarah Milner Simonds bought hers, then put it up for auction on eBay to raise money for The People’s Plot, a community gardening project.
The highest bid she received for the torch was £153,100. But Simonds told Third Sector this was "not a genuine bid but part of a protest that grew". Although the seller’s bid constitutes a legally binding contract, Simonds says she is not confident she will receive the money.
She said she was surprised at the depth of feeling from people who said she should not sell the torch. "We were on the receiving end of a large number of abusive, offensive and filthy messages through eBay," she said. "The auction website has been very supportive, but its security systems couldn’t provide for a situation like this.
Simonds, who carried the torch because of her work with The People’s Plot, said: "My desire was only ever to raise money for community gardening. If we want to nurture and grow our neighbourhood groups, they need to be properly resourced.
"I fear for anyone else who tries to sell their torch to raise money for charity."
However, she said she stood by the idea that torchbearers should be allowed to sell their torches.
"The idea that you should be honour-bound to keep your torch, polish it and keep it on the mantelpiece doesn’t make much sense," she said. "Our work in the community isn’t finished and it needs funds."