Olympic torch comes home: Host city to party, Bu­ble to help light the caul­dron

Cape Breton Post - - National - BY JAMES KELLER

and the mil­lions of Cana­di­ans who watched their jour­ney across this vast coun­try, ar­rived home in Van­cou­ver Thurs­day.

To­day, the fi­nal torch­bearer will light the caul­dron at the open­ing cer­e­monies to mark the start of the Games.

The torch has vis­ited ev­ery prov­ince and ter­ri­tory since it ar­rived in Vic­to­ria last Oc­to­ber, but un­til now res­i­dents in Van­cou­ver could only watch from afar.

Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son car­ried the flame off a mil­i­tary jet in Vic­to­ria more than three months ago af­ter it was lit in Greece, and he was there on Thurs­day to wel­come the flame to Van­cou­ver city hall.

Robert­son, who in­her­ited the ti­tle of Olympic mayor when he was elected a year and a half ago, told a large crowd wav­ing small Cana­dian flags, bang­ing tam­bourines and ring­ing their muchloved cow­bells that nearly a decade of an­tic­i­pa­tion is fi­nally over.

“This is the won­der­ful day that we’ve been wait­ing for,” Robert­son said, min­utes be­fore the flame was ex­changed be­tween torch­bear­ers on the steps of city hall.

“We’ve spent years and years pre­par­ing for this.”

The re­lay has in­volved 12,000 torch­bear­ers who have cov­ered roughly 45,000 kilo­me­tres in ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try.

It started in Olympia, Greece, last Oc­to­ber at a cer­e­mony that used the rays of the sun and a spe­cial mir­ror to light the flame. Af­ter tour­ing that coun­try, the flame was put in­side a miner’s lantern and flown to Canada.

Ever since, peo­ple all across this coun­try have flocked to nightly cel­e­bra­tions, and for most Cana­di­ans the torch re­lay has been their only chance to ex­pe­ri­ence the Games in per­son.

It’s been nearly seven years since Van­cou­ver and Whistler were of­fi­cially awarded the Games.

“I think it’s hit home for ev­ery­body,” said fire­fighter Brian Bog­danovich, who ran the torch to city hall.

“We’ve all been wait­ing for this mo­ment, for the torch to ar­rive, and now it’s here. The en­ergy’s build­ing for the Games to be­gin. I think it means a lot to the city and the coun­try.”

The rau­cous gath­er­ing at city hall of­fered just a small taste of what’s to come.

A mas­sive com­mu­nity cel­e­bra­tion was planned in down­town Van­cou­ver on Thurs­day night, where Cana­dian crooner Michael Bu­ble was to be the sec­ond-last torch­bearer be­fore the flame lights a mini caul­dron at the stage.

To­day, it will be passed hand-to­hand among celebri­ties in­clud­ing Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger and Cana­dian icons such as Wal­ter Gret­zky, Wayne’s fa­ther, be­fore the flame is ush­ered to the sta­dium where it will light the caul­dron to start the Games. The iden­tity of the fi­nal torch­bearer re­mains a se­cret.

Van­cou­ver res­i­dent Glen McNeil, who was also out to see the re­lay on Thurs­day, said even af­ter lay­ing eyes on the torch, re­al­ity hasn’t quite caught up to him.

“It’s still sur­real, it still hasn’t sunk in,” said McNeil, a 50-year-old land sur­veyor.

“It’s been seven years since it was an­nounced, so it’s go­ing to fi­nally ar­rive. The Olympics are here.”

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