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.

I Ran In The Pitt Meadows Olympic Torch Relay…

I got to run in the Olympic Torch Relay today.

The enormity of that statement is just now, hours later, starting to kick in.

I didn’t write an essay.  I don’t work for a Sponsor.  I don’t have any pull.

I got lucky.

I was helping out as a volunteer at the Pitt Meadows Olympic Torch Relay Celebration… just doing whatever needed doing… like everyone else.

It wasn’t raining, when we showed up at 6 am, and the fog was starting to dissipate… it looked like it was going to be a good day.

Little did I know how good it would be!

I was busy, like a lot of other volunteers and organizers, running here and there, doing whatever the coordinators needed doing.  After a bit, I found myself in the Council Chambers, helping tie ribbons for lanyards onto the volunteer nametags.

One of the supervisors had left her Walkie Talkie on the desk, and suddenly, over it, I hear “Where’s Bob ?”

I’m alone at the check in at this point, so I stick my head around the corner of the hallway and, spying the Supervisor who’d called, asked if she was looking for me ?

This is where it all gets very hazy, as things moved VERY quickly.

“Do you want an opportunity ?”

“Sure, I’m happy to help !”

There is a chance you may get to run in the Torch Relay…”

“……….” (Stunned silence)

“If the person doesn’t show up, in the next ten minutes, would you like to do it ?”

Words at this point cannot express the magnitude of emotions, crowding into my overwhelmed thoughts.

“Of course !”  I croak.

A Torch Relay Tracksuit is thrust into my arms, and I am hustled to change, just in case.

My brain is packed with a million thoughts… How can someone NOT show up?  This would be so COOL!  I wish someone I knew was here to take a photo.  Have to remember to smile.  Why did they pick me?  This can’t be happening.  Hurry up, they’re waiting.  It won’t matter – the person will have shown up.  If the person shows up, can I buy the tracksuit?  Enjoy the moment.  Stop enjoying the moment, they’re waiting.  How could someone NOT SHOW UP?

Five minutes later, the “just in case” waiver is filled out, signed, and the Torch Relay Bus is leaving.

The man giving me instructions is talking so quickly, and my brain is working SO slowly, that I take in NONE of what he tells me.

“Am I carrying a Torch?”  I finally get a chance to ask.

“Yes, you are!”  he says, as he claps me on the shoulder.  “Get on the bus, we’re leaving!”

The bus ride was a humbling experience, as after check-in, my fellow passengers in turn, gave their name, shared how they got to run in the Relay, and what it meant to them to be participating.  One young girl in a wheelchair had been hit by a car only two weeks earlier, and although confined to a wheelchair, and having a broken pelvis, she was determined to take the Torch on her leg of the Relay.  Another was running for a family member who had passed.  Another had been involved in the original Vancouver Bid process.  Several had written essays.  Some had spearheaded programs at their work.

I got lucky.

When it was my turn to be let off the bus, I got dropped off at the side of the road, and was soon surrounded by a crowd of people.  Children and adults alike, goggle-eyed as I let them hold and pose for pictures with the unlit torch.  I tried, as much as possible, to give the crowd on the sidewalk the benefit that I had been given, of holding the Olympic Torch for a moment.  To share the joyous feeling of this unbelieveable honour. 

I was working my way back through the crowd, when the Officials came up to me, having thought I’d gone missing, and told me it was time to get ready to start my leg of the Relay.

It was then I chuckled to myself, as I realized that although I had probably posed for over 100 pictures, I had no photo for myself… I had no camera, and no time to ask anyone to send one to me.

Soon the run was started, and once the choreography of the flame being passed from Torch to Torch was done… I started off.

A steady jog… I wasn’t prepared to rush this.

Close to the end, I slowed to a walk, as I really didn’t want it to end… but seeing the next Torch-bearer, broke back into a jog, as I could sense their excitement and anticipation.

It was over, almost before it had begun… but it was a few moments I shall treasure my whole life.

Today I got lucky.  I was given a tremendous honour, priviledge and gift, by people I barely know… who I have no possibility of EVER coming close to being able to adequately say  “Thank You” to… But Thank you, Lorna !!!  I was humbled to be in the company of the people I met.  Both those who carried the Flame on other legs, and those kind people who tend to the Torch carriers.  Those people, who, despite having given the same instructions over ten thousand times, know each time, that the person isn’t listening, because their brain is screaming “I have an Olympic Torch in my hands!”  and yet just keep on smiling, high fiving and woo-hooing.

Wow, did I have a good day today.

Lighting A Fire In Our Community…

Olympic Torch

2010 Olympic Torch

On Monday, February 8th, the Olympic Torch Run will pass through Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, on the way to the Opening Ceremonies on the following Friday.

There will be celebrations held in both communities.

Maple Ridge will “go” first, with their Party running from 6 am to 9 am… (although the exact time the Torch will be arriving is still to be announced).

There will be an official ceremony at Memorial Park, with some entertainment, an Art unveiling, and refreshments.

There will also be a Pancake Breakfast at the Greg Moore Youth Centre.

After Maple Ridge, the Torch will continue to Pitt Meadows, where the party will run from 7 am to 10 am, taking place at Spirit Square, next to City Hall.  Similarly, the Pitt Meadows celebration will have entertainment, a Spirit of Wood carving presentation and breakfast.

Different Torchbearers will be carrying the Torch through Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and onto the Opening Ceremonies on February 12th.

Come on out, and help light up the Town !!!