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