It was a sea of red all across Langley as tens of thousands heeded the advice of organizers and helped Paint the Town Red.
And the Langley Events Centre in Willoughby was no exception. The music was blaring and the crowd was rocking as the Olympic torch approached. Attached to the wheelchair of Paralympian gold medallist Lauren Barwick, the flame made its way along the path to the stage where the cauldron was waiting.
For Barwick, it was an extra special feeling to be a part of such a huge celebration.
“It brings it all home,” she told the crowd. “It is the next best thing to actually competing for your community, to be at home in front of all your supporters.”
Barwick, an Aldergrove resident and para-equestrian athlete, won both gold and silver at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. She now lives in Florida, where she trains and attends school.
“(Community) gives you something to come home to,” she said.
The key to success is facing challenges head on, she told the crowd.
“There are a lot of challenges in life,” she said. “Every day, you give up a day in your life, so I always think ‘what did I do today that was worth giving a day of my life up for?’
“People say you should think outside the box and I say, ‘what box?’”
Afterwards, Barwick admitted she was nervous as she brought the Olympic flame down the home stretch, and that the whole thing went by way too quickly.
“The energy was far more than I expected,” she said. “It was phenomenal. All I could hear was people cheering. I couldn’t stop smiling, even though I had a cramp in my face.”
Once Barwick was done, it was the politicians’ turn to take centre stage.
“This is historic and we wanted to make sure communities across Canada had an opportunity to celebrate the torch relay and the Olympics and the Paralympics,” said MP Mark Warawa. “We are here together to cheer on our athletes for gold.”
“You people are all gold and our athletes are going to bring home gold,” added Senator Gerry St. Germain.
A loud and enthusiastic Premier Gordon Campbell led a spirited cheer of Go, Canada Go! with the crowd.
“Let’s make sure they hear us in Vancouver; let’s make sure they hear us in Whistler,” he yelled.
Campbell also proclaimed that for the first time in history, Canada would win gold on home soil.
The last politician to speak was Township Mayor Rick Green, who spoke of the enthusiasm and excitement of the day. He also said none of this would be possible without the community.
“Langley is known for its volunteerism,” he said. “I have been mayor for just over a year and it never ceases to amaze in every part of this community, what this community is made of.
“What you see here today is exactly driven by those volunteers.”
Green was also presented with a torch used earlier in the day, which will hang in Municipal Hall.