CORNWALL – For 21 days, the Province of Ontario hosts the Olympic Flame as it makes its marathon journey around Canada. While in Ontario, the flame will travel 5450 kilometres between centres of population safely in a van, but for another 900 km a relay of 2900 torchbearers will carry it proudly through 232 communities, and another 20 First Nation communities.
According to Sarah Mulhall, the Ontario Regional Route Coordinator, who has so far followed the torch throughout its journey, there’s a lot more work than just driving (or flying) around Canada with the flame. In this province alone, some 2900 individual torch bearers must all be coordinated, so they are set up and waiting at the right time and place for their moment of glory. Routes through towns need to be planned, police escorts arranged, and streets blocked off so runners and spectators can stay safe.
When asked about some of the more memorable moments of the relay, Sarah remembered fondly the welcome the team received in the small native community of Atlin, in northern British Columbia. “The population was only about 200, but the entire village was waiting with the flame and ran with it.”
Cornwall, too, has found a permanent place in Sarah’s memory. On Friday she had an ultrasound at the CCH and saw her new baby for the first time.
Designing the torch route was a challenge itself. “…we wanted to include as many Canadians as possible,” said John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer, Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). “It is our hope and dream to unite this country and bring Canadians closer together to discover the many cultures and perspectives that make up our nation. We will share the Olympic Flame with young and old, northern and southern, eastern and western — and everyone in between — in order to make these truly Canada’s Games and ones where everyone can celebrate with glowing hearts.”
In general, when the flame arrives at a town or village along the route, the convoy stops and the flame is carried by a team of runners through the community, before the flame continues its journey to the next community.
Cornwall, partly because of its dynamism and commitment to sports of all sorts, is one of only 42 communities in Ontario that will be hosting a special Olympic Flame party.
The flame will leave Ottawa before daylight, at 6:50 am, and travel through Orleans, Rockland, Hammond and Limoges before arriving at Casselman at about 10:12 am. After a tour through Casselman, it’s straight down the 138, arriving at the junction of 138 and Cornwall Centre Road at 11:00 am. At this point the relay runners will once again pick up the flame, running down Pitt Street to Lamoureux Park.
Activities at the park will commence at 11:00 am, and the main flame cauldron will be lit at around noon. Brian St. Pierre, accompanied by choirs from St. Joe’s and la Citadel will sing Cornwall’s Olympic Song, “From Cornwall to Vancouver”. There will also be dance performances by performers from Awkwasne, and the MacCollough Highland Dancers. Grand Chief Mike Mitchell will be on hand to welcome the flame.
Following the celebration, the torch, this time carried by a group of about twenty local doctors, will travel west on Water Street to Brookdale, and then off to Cornwall Island.
In 1999, the IOC took on a mandate to “strengthen the inclusion of women, youth and Indigenous peoples in the Games.” Indigenous participation in past Games, such as Calgary and Salt Lake City, focused primarily on ceremonies and cultural programs. The Vancouver Organizing Committee has been working hard with BC First Nations in an effort to make their participation more than mere tokenism.
However, the inclusion of Akwasasne in the effort to involve all Canadians in the Winter Olympics, will give the relay organisers a unique logistics nightmare. What happens if the Olympic Flame runs out of fuel in the line up on the bridge to get through Customs? Will they have to cancel the Olympics?
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