Olympic flame evokes powerful emotions 

Melamed, Jacob, Andrew part of torch relay kick-off


In several sleep-deprived days that were filled with once-in-a-lifetime moments on his journey to Greece to get the Olympic flame, there was one in particular that stood out for Mayor Ken Melamed.

It was that moment on the morning of Friday, Oct. 30 when the first Olympic torch lit the second torch at the beginning of the cross-country relay in Victoria.

Not only did he realize that this was the start of the last leg of the event that has defined his past five years in office, but also, the lighting was symbolic of how the Olympics were going to spread across the country from Victoria and back to Whistler.

"It was the start of that journey of including Canada in this special event that we as a country are going to share," he said this week, after his extraordinary trip to Greece to bring the Olympic flame to Canada.

"We try not to make this, as much as possible, an elitist event. Obviously it's hard to get away from that association but I think the torch relay is the strongest statement of that intention by VANOC (Vancouver's Olympic organizers) and the Games partners to include as many Canadians as possible and hope that the flame can ignite a spark within them individually."

Melamed left Whistler for Greece on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 27. He, along with Olympic organizers and other dignitaries, spent less than 24 hours in the country before bringing the torch back to Victoria.

The trip to Greece really drove home to the mayor all the things that the Olympic flame stands for - the principles of peace, brotherhood and friendship.

"That just strengthened for me the meaning and the emotion around the ceremony of the flame," said Melamed.

"I've been taken by surprise over and over through this Olympic process because there are parts of the Olympics that many of us just take for granted but don't give much second thought to. And this is obviously one of them."

Squamish Chief Gibby Jacob can attest to the emotion that holding the flame evokes. He, along with Lil'wat Nation Chief Leonard Andrew and other Four Host First Nations Chiefs, were part of the ceremony in Victoria, paddling the flame across the harbour.

Holding the flame on that journey across the water, Jacob couldn't help but think of all the people in his life who weren't there to see that day, in particular his 15-year-old granddaughter Leanne who died in 2001.

One of his favourite moments of the day was walking up to the stage lined with kids and their Olympic red mittens. He gave one kid a high five.

"As soon as I did that all the little kids hands went up," chuckled Jacob. "That was one of my most memorable pieces."

Chief Leonard Andrew also spoke this week of the emotion and power of holding the flame and what it means to his people in the small Mount Currie band.

"The opportunity to be fully involved means a lot to our people," said Andrew.

"I think it's the beginning of the things that are to come."

The flame will be coming back to Whistler on Feb. 5/6 on its way to Vancouver before the 2010 Games. This will be the longest domestic torch relay in history, over more than 100 days with roughly 12,000 torchbearers.



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