NICK Nicholls was just 22 when the letter arrived informing him he had been chosen to carry the iconic Olympic flame through Reading on August 1.

The Reading Athletic Club runner had been demobbed from the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve the year before and found himself carrying the torch from The Granby cinema at Cemetery Junction, along London Road, Kendrick Road and Basingstoke Road, to the Four Horseshoes pub in Whitley.

Mr Nicholls, 86, who grew up in Prince's Street and later moved to Caversham, said: "I don't know why I was selected, I just received a letter saying the torch was coming to Reading and I was going to carry it.

"I was flattered, delighted, but it was not what it is today. They will only be running 200 blooming yards and there are thousands and thousands of them. They will hardly have time to light it before handing it over."

The former Alfred Sutton School pupil, who joined the athletics club when he was 14 in 1940 and was made junior captain, remembers the 300-strong crowd cheering him on at Cemetery Junction but believes even more people will turn out when the torch returns to Reading on July 11-12.

Mr Nicholls, who went on to have five children and seven grandchildren with his late wife Pam, said: "I was more anxious then anything else. I was worried if the guy who was bringing the torch down to me was going to get there and if the other guy would be there at the end of my leg.

"The handle was not hot but by the time I was running up Kendrick Road, my arm was getting tired and it was harder to keep the torch away from my face. It was really hot, quite dangerous really."

The flame had been carried to Reading from Sonning and later stopped at Swallowfield and Riseley as part of its tour of Berkshire. It was making its way from Wembley to Torquay and was accompanied by two 32-seater coaches filled with Olympic officials and a police escort.

The torch bearers were chosen "on account of their appearance and general stamina", according to The Chronicle, by Olympic Organiser for Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, Jack Bridges, whose grandson Adrian joined Mr Nicholls at the exhibition opening at Reading Museum last week.

Mr Nicholls, who now lives in Reigate, Surrey, said: "It was a historic day, I was very much aware of the fact that it was a great privilege and in days to come I hoped I would have children and could tell them about it. The country should be proud to be running the Olympics again, I'm absolutely proud that Reading will see the torch again, it will give everyone a real boost."

His eldest son Sam, who now has the 4lb alloy torch carried by his dad, said his family is still deciding if they will watch the 2012 version in Reigate or in Reading. But he added: "I am very proud of him. If it hadn't been for the war, he would have had a great chance of representing the country in the Olympics itself. Unfortunately, by the time the conflict was over, he was past his best."