Crowds fuel Olympic torch 

Hundreds gather for one-year countdown and unveiling of uniquely Canadian design

Hundreds of flag waving, Hudson’s Bay scarf sporting, wildly enthusiastic people pack into Whistler’s Village Square just past dawn this morning to see the much-anticipated 2010 Olympic Torch unveiled.

Its cool white and grey swerving frame is reminiscent of both the swoosh of a ski and the turn of a skate — its light and dark like the shadows in Canada’s vast and varied landscape from snowdrifts to the Northern Lights.

As the two first torchbearers ran with the icon the crowd went wild, the air becoming a sea of red flags for Canada.

  It was just the response organizers wanted as in many ways the choice to unveil the torch in Whistler was a practice for the over 1,000 stops it will make in communities across the country following the Oct. 30 start of the torch run. It will be back in Whistler Feb. 5, 2010.

“I think it is wonderful and I love it, it has great design, I think it is unique, and I think it is Canadian,” said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed.

“I didn’t really understand how it important it was that… Whistler was the place that saw the torch first. So we really are being given a special recognition for our role.”

On had for the unveiling were John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games, Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, and Federal Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn.

“Most Canadians are going to want to have one so I think it is a pretty good design,” said Campbell just after the unveiling.

“I think it is reflective of the country. The whole idea of the skier coming down the slope, I wish I could cut an edge like that.”

Said Lunn: “It is going to be really exciting to see this torch wind its way across every part of Canada.

“The torch will touch over 90 per cent of the population so it is going to be exciting.”

And while the torch was top of mind for Lunn Thursday, the one-year countdown to the Games, how Canada’s athletes are doing is his top priority. That’s why he will announce today a program to share a symbol of Canada with each and every athlete who reaches the Olympic and Paralympic podium in 2010.

“This is all about our athletes and their determination,” he said.

“I really want to do something special for the athletes so for every single Canadian athlete… who stands on the podium they will be presented with a flag that has flown on Parliament Hill during the Games, just to show them the symbol of how proud we are of them.”

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