Saturday, June 27, 2009

Winter Paralympics 2010 unveils torch design, emblem

From The Vancouver Sun in Canada. In the picture, Paralympian Karolina Wisniewska models the Paralympic torch and the torchbearers uniform for the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games torch relay.

From the seats of their wheelchairs, International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven and retired Canadian sit-skier Brad Leanna told two different, but equally meaningful, stories June 25 about their torch relay experiences.

They were speaking as Vanoc unveiled the metre-long grey torch that will be used for the 2010 Paralympic relay that will start in Ottawa on March 3 and arrive in Vancouver 10 days later.

Craven, the ex-wheelchair basketball player from Great Britain, said one of his most memorable turns with the torch came in Salt Lake City in 2002 at an adventure playground for kids.

"I nearly killed myself," cracked the jovial Craven. I became a kid and I was going at full speed and I thought the torch was going to come out of its holder. I nearly ended up in a sandpit, but I didn't. I just made it around the corner."

Leanna was one of 10 Canadians chosen to carry the torch for 50 metres in Beijing in 2008.

Dressed Thursday in the 2010 Paralympic uniform — steel blue and accented with bright bursts of blue and green on the jacket's left arm, was Vanoc's description; Mr. Blackwell just rolled over in his grave — Leanna said the Beijing experience was almost overwhelming.

"I took a moment to think to myself, 'Wow, out of all the people in the world right now, I'm holding the Paralympic flame . . . and all that represents. It's a pretty powerful feeling."

Leanna said he'd love to be one of the 600 who will get a chance to wheel or run with the torch in Canada. Just who will have the opportunity to live that moment — and the opportunity to plunk down $349 to buy the Bombardier-made torch he/she carries — is unknown, however.

The organizing committee for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games unveiled only four things on Thursday: the torch design — a darker version of the Olympic torch, it looks like a runner off a decades-old sled; the emblem for the Paralympic torch relay; the torchbearers' uniform; and the start point for the relay. How will Ottawa possibly match the ancient Temple of Heaven in Beijing for the lighting ceremony?

There was no information on how the torchbearers will be chosen or how the public can sign up. No route information, celebration sites or whether communities across the country can even lobby to have the relay run through their town.

"We're working through those elements of the program right now and we'll come out with an announcement later in the summer, beginning of the fall," said Jim Richards, who is in charge of torch relays for Vanoc. "We're working with our partners on the best way to approach this and what is it that meets our objective in terms of really finding those inspirational stories. We want to make sure we tap into those."

He did say the torchbearers will be a combination of able-bodied and disabled Canadians.

The torch relay emblem, by the way, is described this way in a Vanoc release: " 'Spark Becomes Flame' shows a human figure with its arms raised and joined, much like a candle's flame. Contained within the arms is the glow of the fire within everyone, symbolizing the moment when imaginations are ignited and dreams born."

Since no Paralympic Games were held in Canada following the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics or the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, this will be the first Paralympic torch relay held in this country. Given there are only 10 days available for the relay, it will not be able to take an uninterrupted linear route.

"We're going to have to pick it up and move it and . . . create those positive moments, those wonderful stories," said Richards. "We want to build a story and build excitement for the Games."