Carrying the Flame: A Torch Bearer Remembers

Carrying the Flame: A Torch Bearer Remembers

Posted on July 26 by admin
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The Olympic flame is one of the most noteable traditions of the Olympics. Serveral months before the start of any Olympics the flame is lit in Greece and then carried from Greece to whichever nation is hosting the games. The Olympic torch serves as a link between Greece and the rest of the world – between past and present. This year the Olympics are in London, England. The last Olympics was in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. We Canadians know full well the excitment of hosting an Olympic games, and the responsibility that it entails. We also all watched on our televisions and in the streets as the Olympic torch made its way through our country to get to its final destination to open the games.

Rick Antonson was one of the Olympic torch bearers in 2010 for Canada, he captures the experience for us:

Rick: It was the night before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics and I stood at the ready along Vancouver’s Broadway with thousands of people crowding both sides of the street, unlit Olympic Torch in my hand. Another runner came jogging down the road toward me, a hundred metres away but thousands of miles along from the first runner in the Olympic Torch Relay. He held his flaming torch high.

A police officer took a special key and unlocked the gas canister within my torch as the runner approached.  Then the runner and I tipped our torches to one another in a salute, and the flame transferred nicely from his torch to mine, as I turned to run. And for 300 metres, the Olympic Flame was my responsibility – carrying it through streams of waving Canadian flags, and hearing verbal salutes shouted in a dozen languages. I saw the flame’s glow of pride reflected in faces young and old — as for that stretch, this was their Olympic Torch too, the flame’s image that they’d keep in memory and in photographs forever.

Bands played, uncoordinated choruses of Oh Canada broke out everywhere, and I wanted desperately to slow it all down, to have the run become a walk and last forever. But soon I saw the next runner ahead, her dormant torch at the ready. We linked arms and swirled, and then paused so I could bend the flame to touch the top of her torch, set it alight, and watch her carry onward the flame that had started this journey so many weeks ago in Greece.

And then the same police officer kindly snuffed out my torch, removed the gas canister, and handed me the wonderful keepsake, saying “don’t ever clean off the smoke stains…” And off he ran.

Rick Antonson is the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, and a former Ambassador for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. He is the co-author of Slulmach’s Gold, and author of To Timbuktu for a Haircut and Route 66 Still Kicks. Rick lives in Vancouver.