City torch route was VANOC’s call, says mayor

If City residents found themselves scratching their heads as they watched the Olympic cauldron being lit outside City Hall on Monday afternoon, while the $1 million Spirit Square stood empty a block away, they were not alone.

The choice of location left Langley City’s mayor equally confused.

“That was VANOC’s route,” said Peter Fassbender on Wednesday, after all the trappings of Monday’s street party had been cleared away.

“We would have taken (the torch) down to the one-way and ended at the Spirit Square.”

Fassbender worked for two years trying to get VANOC to reconsider the route, he said.

“From our first meeting, before the stage (in Douglas Park) was built, I said ‘I’d like it to come to the Spirit Square,” said Fassbender.

“I told them, ‘You are idiots. It’s so obvious we should take it the other way.’

“They could have accommodated it if they wanted to. Instead, we had to build a stage, with the Spirit Square sitting just down the road.”

The City received a grant of $10,500 (the maximum available) from the Ministry of Tourism to promote and host Monday’s torch relay event.

Of that, $2,600 was used to rent and build the stage.

The remainder paid for entertainment, souvenirs for participating groups and advertising of the event and the torch route.

In the end, Fassbender realized the argument was one he couldn’t win and decided to just go with the flow. But that doesn’t mean he’s any closer to understanding the logic behind it.

“I was fit to be tied, but I had to get over it. It was a great community event, but the whole Spirit Square initiative was about the Olympics and its legacies,” he said.

“I’m standing up there (on the stage at City Hall), thinking ‘People are thinking I’m an idiot,’ but that one was out of my hands.”

“Still,” he said, “we had a great celebration.”

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