Carrying the torch — it was magic



For the past few weeks I’ve been jogging, getting ready to do my 300 metres carrying the Olympic Torch. People were regularly asking me, “Are you getting excited?” I would always say yes, but even though I was looking forward to the experience, I wasn’t feeling excited.

Maybe I’ve had too much good fortune in my life. Maybe deep down I was thinking there were lots more deserving people than me, athletes, dignitaries or volunteers. When my uniform arrived by courier I hung it up to get the wrinkles out and didn’t really try it on until a few days before. But I was ready and showed up at the Events Centre for my briefing.

As I was walking across the lot in my uniform, people started coming over to have their pictures taken and I didn’t even have my torch yet. I met people from other countries and I felt a twinge of excitement. Inside I met my fellow torch bearers for the day, some from Langley, Vancouver, Switzerland and Langley Paralympic gold and silver medalist Lauren Barwick. I was handed my torch and now I was hooked.

We heard many stories from the team that travels with the relay and as we went outside we were treated like rock stars. Now this was pretty cool.

On the shuttle on the way to our starting points, we watched a video of previous torch relays and Angie, our host said, “this flame has come 45,000 Km and been held by over 12,000 torch bearers. The only way it’s going to get to Vancouver is if each one of you holds it high and completes your link in the chain.”

I felt some goose bumps.

All of a sudden the convoy was on scene and things started happening pretty fast. I exited the bus at my drop off to a crowd of family and friends and I’ll be darned if I was excited as all get out.

The policeman unlocked my torch and I could hear the gas escaping just as the torch bearer arrived. We touched torches, mine ignited, the crowd cheered and I was off. The crowd was a blur, but I did see four generations of my family, volunteers I’ve worked with, good friends and people I loved. I started to run and I knew that if I wanted to I could run for a lot farther than 300 meters, but they had told us to enjoy the moment.

I made the exchange, waved and cheered and got back on the return shuttle to be greeted by another retired fire chief who has been with the relay since day one. He knows me too well and asks if I have written a poem about today yet.

We are dropped off back at the Events Centre where the Township people, the Spirit of B.C. Committee and countless volunteers have been working since five in the morning preparing for the 10,000 people assembled here. It’s a great show. For the next hour and a half we have pictures taken, sign autographs and talk to locals, tourists and reporters.

This week, I’m taking the torch to three elementary schools and a seniors’ centre. They should have a chance to touch this magic wand and that should be another column for sure. I should quit writing and get to bed but, I think I’m too excited to sleep. At least that’s what McGregor says.

Editor’s note — Times columnist Jim McGregor carried the torch along 200 Street in Willoughby on Monday morning, just before it was carried to the Events Centre and the cauldron was lit by torch bearer Lauren Barwick.