As the Olympics draw closer in our home town of Whistler and the excitement builds I am simply awestruck by the impact the Torch Relay has had on our communities throughout B.C. and Canada. Whistler saw over 10,000 people come out for the lighting of the community cauldron on Friday night. Steve Podborski, “Crazy Canuck” skied the torch down Whistler Mountain after Julie Murray from Whistler and a member of Canada’s Ski Cross team raced it up the mountain by snowmobile. My 8 year old daughter said to me that night- “Dad did you know Julia Murray went to our school!”- that sums it all up right there.
I had the honour of carrying the torch Saturday morning at 7:02 down Village Gate Boulevard and Northlands drive. The Torch Relay staff is simply amazing. There were 13 runners on the Whistler leg of the torch relay on Saturday as it headed to Pemberton. We met the staff at 6am where we were taken through a history of the Olympic Flame. What struck me was the fact at 7:02 I would be the only one in the world carrying the Olympic Flame! Don’t trip, don’t blow it out…… the heart started racing big time! We introduced ourselves and our connection to Whistler and the Olympics. Kate Webster from Whistler Blackcomb would lead us off at 7am, pass to me and I would then pass to Andree Janyk who’s accomplishments are to long to mention- but her most important one is that she is downhiller Britt and slalomer Michael Janyk’s mom! After a little practice on how we would cross our torches to light the next runner torch, we headed out to the lead bus as a group to drop each runner in position.
Andree and I shared a few laughs over me telling her that she would be crying her eyes out as I approached her- “no way” she said. But just then she got a text from Britt in Nikiska where the ski team is training saying- ‘Good luck mom’ and I knew Andree was toast from there. Just as the emotions of the day began to hit the staff showed us a video of the history of the Olympic Flame layered with the cold play song “Fix You” and that was it- “get out the tissue box” I said.
Here we go! The bus dropped off Kate to a big cheer. We wished her well and the bus then proceeded to drop me off. What an incredible sight. The sky was clear, the moon was out and all my well wished gave me a huge cheer as I stepped off the bus. After a bunch of photos with my family and of course the Whistler Golf Club staff as we awaited Kate and the torch, lots of people I didn’t know who by chance were heading to work on the hill or to their Olympic venue jumped in for photos. Then someone yells out- “here it comes!” I looked down Village Gate and there was Kate giving it up the hill with the flame flying high. I took my position, Kate took hers, I looked at her, tears coming down her face and we lit the torch. It looked so amazing I just stared it it for a while until the staff said “Alan time to run!” Oh yeah right!
Off I went with my kids runnung beside me “Go Dad Go” What a thrill. I was struck with how beautiful the torch looks while running I couldn’t stop looking at it. I thought about my family, friends, ex team mates, Coach Donohue, those I’ve lost- everything in that three minutes. I approached Andree to light her torch and sure enough she was crying ” I told you you’d cry I said” We shared a hug and off she went. The staff extinguishes the flame right away because of course there can only be one Olympic Flame. After some more quick photos they pick you up on the trail bus and one by one you follow the relay picking up the torch bearers. This was awesome because you get to see each runner fans and share their moment with them when they get back on the bus. The staff take your torch, open it up, take out the fuel and disable the flame system. From there the torch is all yours.
I can’t wait to see who will light the flame in Vancouver. It will obviously mean more to me now. I had the pleasure of meeting Terry Fox at Simon Fraser University where I was playing basketball and where Terry went to school. He is my hero and I hope his mom lights the torch- but whoever it is I can guarantee you I’ll be reaching for the tissue box.