Times Colonist

Crowds shiver, cheer as Olympic torch re­lay fin­ishes On­tario leg

- SHAN­NON PROUD­FOOT Olympic Games · Sports · Ontario · Philadelphia Flyers · Philadelphia · Canada · 2010 Winter Olympics · Vancouver · Canadian National Men's Hockey Team · Manitoba · Winnipeg · Victoria · British Columbia · Kenora · Mike Richards · Dryden, Ontario · Sioux Lookout · Len Compton

KENORA, Ont. — An hon­our guard of can­dles en­cased in ice lanterns greeted the Olympic flame re­lay when it ar­rived in Kenora last night, for its last overnight stop in On­tario be­fore it heads west.

The ro­bust north­ern town’s streets were lined with ice lanterns perched on snow­banks and at the end of res­i­dents’ drive­ways. A long-wind­ing path guided the days’ fi­nal torch­bearer, Wayne Ficek, down to the shores of Lake of the Woods to light the com­mu­nity caul­dron.

“It was al­most sur­real, it was an un­be­liev­able mo­ment,” said Ficek, a pa­role and pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer who is ac­tive in wheel­chair bas­ket­ball and curl­ing.

Many of the hun­dreds of res­i­dents await­ing the torch’s ar­rival car­ried can­dles with red plas­tic flaps to keep their flames from be­ing ex­tin­guished by a bit­ing north­ern On­tario wind. Even Kenora’s mas­cot, a fish sculp­ture known in th­ese parts as Husky the Muskie, sported a pair of red Olympic mit­tens on his fins.

The ice lanterns are “a Kenora thing,” said res­i­dent Deb Spend­low, who said Keno­rans place them on graves at the ceme­tery each Christ­mas Eve.

“It’s a big mo­ment for Kenora be­cause we’ll prob­a­bly never see the torch again,” her friend Karen Rustige said, adding that she is thrilled she will be work­ing as a po­lice of­fice at the Win­ter Games.

Mayor Len Comp­ton elicited huge cheers from the crowd when he as­sured the throng home­town boy and Philadel­phia Fly­ers cen­tre Mike Richards would lead the Cana­dian men’s hockey team to gold.

Ear­lier in the day, about 140 kilo­me­tres to the east, thou­sands turned out to greet the re­lay as it snaked its way down Dry­den streets, lined with tele­phone poles decked out in red and white rib­bons and crowds of school­child­ren chant­ing “Let’s go, Canada.”

Ban­ners read­ing “Dry­den be­lieves!” ap­peared here and there, and yards and snow­banks were dot­ted with me­tre-high inuk­shuks fash­ioned out of coloured ice blocks to match the Van­cou­ver 2010 Olympic logo.

The cel­e­bra­tion was moved in­doors be­cause of the cold, and about 2,000 peo­ple packed a high school gym while just as many crowded its hall­ways and the park­ing lot out­side.

Glenda and Brent Dar­ling took a day off work and drove an hour from Sioux Look­out, Ont., along with their chil­dren, Jes­sica, 8, and Charles, 5, and their nephew, Parker MacRae, 12, to see the flame.

Torch re­lay or­ga­niz­ers said they planned the route so that 90 per cent of Cana­di­ans would be within an hour’s drive of the events, and the Dar­lings said the high­way to Dry­den was crowded with peo­ple from out­ly­ing ar­eas, drawn by the flame.

“We ap­pre­ci­ated any­thing from the na­tional stage that makes it lo­cal,” Glenda Dar­ling said. Her en­tire fam­ily dressed in mul­ti­ple lay­ers of pa­tri­otic gear, with Team Canada Tshirts and hood­ies, topped by Cana­dian flag fleece­blan­kets tied over their shoul­ders like capes.

“It’s the com­mu­nity spirit, which is a step­ping stone for the na­tional spirit,” said Brent Dar­ling.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, the Olympic torch re­lay passed through Up­sala, Ont., where sev­eral dozen chil­dren and adults gath­ered on the side of the high­way to wel­come the flame.

As one torch­bearer passed the bea­con to the next, and with tem­per­a­tures hov­er­ing around -16 C, chil­dren be­gan singing O Canada and then crowded around the flame hold­ing their own torches made of white painted card­board tubes topped with red-and-or­ange tis­sue pa­per.

The re­lay hits Fal­con Lake just west of the On­tario-Man­i­toba bound­ary this morn­ing and will make its way into Win­nipeg late in the af­ter­noon, prior to a fire­works cel­e­bra­tion at The Forks later in the evening.

The flame re­lay, a 45,000-kilo­me­tre Cana­dian trek which be­gan on Oct. 30 in Vic­to­ria.

The Olympic flame will pass through more than 1,000 Cana­dian com­mu­ni­ties in the hands of 12,000 torch­bear­ers, be­fore arriving at Van­cou­ver’s B.C. Place to light the Olympic Caul­dron and open the 2010 Win­ter Games on Feb. 12.

Canada’s 2010 Olympic torch re­lay will be the long­est in his­tory con­tained within the host coun­try.

 ??  ?? Torch­bearer An­nick Har­vey, right, passes the Olympic flame to An­dre Navarri from the Bom­bardier Fac­tory on Day 67 of the Olympic torch re­lay in Thun­der Bay, Ont.
Torch­bearer An­nick Har­vey, right, passes the Olympic flame to An­dre Navarri from the Bom­bardier Fac­tory on Day 67 of the Olympic torch re­lay in Thun­der Bay, Ont.

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