Olympic ovation at City Hall

Torch relay festivities drew huge crowds to Langley City Hall on Monday, while the Spirit Square, built as part of B.C.’s Olympic legacy, sat empty a block away. Mayor Peter Fassbender lobbied to have the Olympic cauldron located at the Douglas Park band shell, but was overruled by VANOC, he said.

Under a perfect sky, residents adorned in their national dress, and children of all ages proudly waving Maple Leaf flags, created a feast of colours and cultures at Langley City Hall’s Olympic torch relay celebration on Monday afternoon.

Thousands of people lined Fraser Highway and 204 Street as the convoy preceding torchbearer Nancy Jensen snaked its way to City Hall, where thousands of people had lined Douglas Crescent. Some had waited several hours for this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Hundreds of school children wore red. Dozens of spectators stuck flags in their hair, some pinned them to their pooches, and one woman wore Maple Leaf glasses. In the crowd was 99-year-old Grace Ellett, who was surrounded by people affectionately calling her “Auntie Grace.”

Near the front of the stage was Doreen Walker, a seriously ill woman whose doctor had made a plea for local emergency personnel to help her patient realize a dream: to see the Olympic torch. Firefighters from the City and Township made that dream come true.

Earlier in the day, a runner had carried the Olympic flame across the Golden Ears Bridge. Then it was carried on to Walnut Grove, Fort Langley and Aldergrove.

Mayor Peter Fassbender hosted the event, and as the last vehicle in the convoy passed, the crowd roared as Langley’s Nancy Jensen rounded the corner from 204 Street to Douglas Crescent, completing her 300 metres of the relay.

Then, torch held aloft, Jensen ignited the torch of the next runner, Margaret Langford of Abbotsford. Langford is a four-time Canadian Olympian, having taken part in the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics in whitewater kayak slalom.

Fassbender introduced two other Olympians, Karel Jonker, who was on Canada’s rowing team, and John Ekels, who won a bronze in sailing at the same Games.

After Langford had jogged away for her leg in the relay, Fassbender announced the winners of a draw for two tickets to a Feb. 27 speed skating event. The tickets, given to the City, were won by Jo Andrews.

The Winter Olympics open on Friday, Feb. 12, and wrap up 17 days later, and will be watched by an estimated 1.5 billion viewers.

The next Winter Games will be in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.