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Abt executive runs with Olympic torch in England

July 23, 2012 | Anna Marie Kukec

Mike Abt, co-president of family-owned Abt Electronics in Glenview, never expected to return to London nearly 30 years after his backpacking days. This time, he did so as a runner of the Olympic torch.

The Glencoe resident was one of about 8,000 who participated in the traditional relay to bring the flame from Athens to the London, the site of this year’s Olympics, which start Friday. Abt’s 300-meter run took place on July 9 in Luton, England, where he carried the Olympic torch, which is about 2 feet 6 inches and weighs 2.2 pounds.

“It was very exciting,” Abt said. “I was really focused and the adrenaline was really going. And I was really surprised at the number of people who lined the streets.”

Crowds cheered the torch bearers and many were eager to have their photos taken with Abt and other participants. And not all participants were runners. One woman in his group was in a wheelchair and had rolled along the designated route carrying the flame. And they all got to keep the torch they carry.

As the flame is passed to the next bearer, the torch of the finished runner is immediately decommissioned and certain internal components are removed. They then receive an official letter from the Olympic Committee regarding the torch so they don’t have problems going through airport customs, Abt said.

A few months ago, Abt’s father, Robert Abt, 74, was asked to participate by Samsung, one of the Olympic torch relay sponsors. But the elder Abt handed that honor down to his son, Mike, who gladly boarded a plane to London with his 11-year-old son, Coby.

“When I arrived, I realized again what an international city London is and how there are people of every age and color. I had forgotten what a melting pot it is.”

The next day, he gathered with other participants and boarded a bus for Luton, outside London. His run was scheduled at 6:40 a.m. and the streets were already filled with locals. After allowing his torch to “kiss” the flame of the previous runner, Abt started off with his son running along side as well as other official Olympic officials. When he finished, several people asked to take photos with him and the torch.

After his historic run, he and his son enjoyed a few days touring London and then headed home. They brought the Olympic torch back to Abt Electronics and passed it around during a sales meeting. A special display case is being constructed for permanent display for inside the store, he said.

“Its an experience you want to share,” Abt said. “Everyone loves the Olympics and it brings the world together.”

Copyright © 2012 Paddock Publications, Inc.