One Big Dream

Red mittens

2010 Olympic red mittens from k-ideas' Flickr photostream

Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee members had many dreams when they began planning the 2010 winter games. One of them was to send the Olympic torch on a relay that would bring the flame to within 150 kilometres of every Canadian community. In a country the size of this one, with a population as small and scattered, that is one big dream and it makes one good story.

Airplanes had to be pressed into service to bring the flame to the small pockets of population that inhabit the territories of Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. And, of course, the Greece-to-Canada portion was airborne.

Elsewhere torch bearers rowed the flame, danced with it, and attached it to a wheelchair. They held it aloft while snowshoeing, surfing, bicycling, dogsledding, crossing ice, riding in a horse-drawn buggy, and driving a snow-grooming machine. When it finally entered the stadium for the opening ceremonies, it was tied to a wheelchair.

In small towns and big cities, thousands of people lined the path, insisting repeatedly that witnessing the relay made them feel part of the games, part of the country. Coast to coast, red-mitten fever generated pride and enthusiasm.

Canadians don’t spend a lot of time waving flags or bragging about their country. Some parts of the Olympics build-up seemed uncharacteristic, like calling the program to fund athletes, “Own the Podium”. Not that Canadians didn’t want their athletes to win medals, but the slogan was over the top for a country where people are more comfortable with modesty than swagger.

So pundits and bloggers and friends sitting around the dinner table will discuss endlessly what the torch relay meant to them and to the country. They’ll wonder if the opening ceremonies were pageantry or wanna-be, how facilities could have been improved, and why we spent $10,000,000 for a temporary Canadian pavilion that looked like a big tent.

But it’s been a good party, and we are quietly proud. And the torch relay? That stitched us together for a few months. We won’t soon forget it.

It is all part of the story.

  • See photos of the relay on the Boston Globe Web site.
  • Trace the route on the Olympic Torch Relay Interactive Map and watch videos of its day-by-day progress.

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