Sharing The Torch Experience…

Much has been said about the Olympic cauldron.

Even I had a blurb, not so much about the cauldron itself, but about one fine Canadian’s attempts to help folks have better pictures of the cauldron.

Earlier this week, I was contacted by another one of the Torch runners from Pitt Meadows, who let me know that on Saturday, a few Torch runners were going down to the Olympic cauldron, to take pictures.

I was in !

So it was, that at 11:30 on Saturday morning, I found myself, along with my Torch runners’ uniform  and Torch, down at the Olympic cauldron.

The cauldron viewing area itself, has been improved, quite dramatically, from what it was.

It took me a few minutes to see the other Torch runners, as they were off to one side.

Meeting of the Torches

Eventually we collected, were interviewed for CTV and a few other TV networks, and joined by a 7  foot tall Russian character, promoting the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.

Then the fun started.

People are enamored with the Torch, and the Torch experience.

Perhaps second only to the Mapleleaf, it has become symbolic of these Games.

However, unlike the Team Canada Jerseys, and Canada Hoodies, which have become wonderfully ubiquitous, the Olympic Torch has been something which only a lucky few get to experience.

Yesterday, I got to share that experience with hundreds of people.

It started as a series of double takes from folks near by, and an incredulous “Is that a REAL Torch?”  Followed by a pleading… “Would you take a picture with me?”

Over the next seven hours, I shared the Torch, and took pictures with people from all over the globe.  I met people from Mexico, Germany, China, Japan, Africa, Norway, Turkey and a lot from the Vancouver area.  Quite a number were unable to speak English, so I don’t know where they came from.  Quite a few who recognized me from my run in Pitt Meadows.  One lady, (who I hope reads this and contacts me,) was with me, as I waited to run my leg of the relay.  After a while, I stopped asking where people were from, because I realized, it didn’t matter.  People seemed to be universally grateful for a chance to take a picture with the Olympic Torch, and it didn’t matter where they were from.

Most people were grateful, and most children thanked me without being prompted.  The folks were polite, and generally patient, as they crowded in from all sides.  I tried, as much as possible to help people in order, but families with children got preference from me, and that may have irked some people… but, not my problem.

“Why are you doing this?!?”was another question… because while folks are getting used to lining up, and the line-ups are usually pretty well organized, an ad hoc opportunity like this, without stanchions or supervisors, seemed unusual to people.  My reply was “Because I wanted to share my good fortune.”

People were nervous, and felt pressured to take a picture.  I tried to make sure that everyone got a chance to take a good picture —  that the Olympic logo on the Torch was showing, and tried to make sure no one’s face was obstructed by the Torch.  Several people got mad at me, when I told them they had turned off the camera, instead of taking a picture… Some of them came back, later, because their photos “didn’t turn out”  😳

Many times a husband waved off the offer of switching out with a spouse, to get a photo, only to show up, sheepishly, a short time later, after having thought it over !!! 😆

Finally, when it was getting dark, and harder to see, I was able to tuck the Torch away, and head home through the crowds… tired, but happy.

I’m proud that I hung in so that everyone that asked for a picture, got a chance to take one…  I’m glad that I was able to share an Olympic Torch with so many people… And I’m again SO thankful for the opportunity that I got to do this.

The Olympics are about the World coming together, for a shared experience.  On a very tiny level, I participated in that experience yesterday.

Very Canadian…

Yesterday, I observed what may have been the quintessential event, which has made my Olympic experience complete.  It had nothing to do with sports.  I was not running a Torch.  I didn’t meet any Gold Medal Winning athlete.  I wasn’t involved, at all.

It was a purely moment of sheer joy, and kindness, that might have happened in a lot of places… But it happened in Canada. I was Downtown, trying to absorb as much Olympic Spirit as I can, walking the streets, drinking in the odd melange of hustle and bustle, and awe-struck wonder… As our City gets about the business of hosting an Olympic Winter Games, and the rest of us stand and gawk — ooh and aah at the displays and venues that have sprung up to revitalize and focus our City.

There have been, as there always are, problems and glitches at these Games, and some have gained some profile. From the lack of affordable housing for residents of the Downtown East Side, to the much-maligned, malfunctioning Zamboni, these issues have been covered and drawn attention to, by folks who are better informed, and better writers than I.  On this day, I wanted to see, with my own eyes, the Olympic Cauldron, and see for myself, the offensive fence, with its off-putting mesh, and see for myself, what the reality of the situation was, without spin or agenda.

From what I had been told, the Cauldron is a LONG ways away. Because of the adjacent International Broadcast Centre, there is an understandable concern for security… But at the same time, the Olympic Flame being visible only through the two inch gaps in a chain link fence, makes it tangible evidence, in a thousand photographs of parents trying to juggle kids in front of a fence, with some glimpse of flame in the distance, that these Olympics are VERY security conscious.

A not very family-friendly photo-opportunity, for a city that is supposed to be friendly, and welcoming.

I went down there, just after lunch-time, and saw that the fence was pretty far away from the Cauldron, and that families were, in fact, having difficulty getting a photo in front of the small gate of open fence that afforded the view. ***

I penguin shuffled, in turn, to the front… stuck my camera lens through the fence, zoomed in, as much as I could, and clicked away. As I walked away, my eye was caught by a different line, off to one side. A young man, standing about four feet off the ground, holding onto a metal stand with one hand, with one foot on a concrete post, and the other foot dangling in mid air. He was, in turn, reaching down, and taking the cameras that people were handing up to him.  He would take photos for them, over the top of the eight foot fence, and hand the camera back, before taking the photos for the next person.

He did this for several different “groups” of tourists… and then jumped down, and, without another word to any of them, went on his way.

I think in the past while, all of us Vancouverites have tried to make an effort to help folks.

Whether with directions, taking a photo, or offering tourist suggestions… we are, by and large, I believe, trying to be a good Host City.

The guy climbing the fence, was, literally AND figuratively, head and shoulders above the crowd… and he disappeared before I could get a name or a picture…  but I know the folks who you helped will be telling their friends back home… and I’m telling my readers…

You might be the most Canadian of us all !

Cheers !!!

*** Since I was there on Tuesday, VanOC has apparently made some changes, and is reportedly working on more.  Regardless, the fence-guy rocks !!!