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Olympic Torch Relay – what it’s all about

So on December 17th, I had the great honour of being part of the 12,000 people selected to carry the Olympic Torch throughout Canada. On this date, the Torch had made its way to the GTA and in the morning, the event started out in Markham.

Markham, ON has always been a special place to me; the reason is because of the fact that most of my family resides in this city, and, also, of course, Running Free is located there.

I was nominated months ago by a Managing Director at RBC because of my contributions to the company. RBC was the title sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Anyway, these contributions I made weren’t really work-related; I had started a running club, which ended up morphing into a health and wellness club with lunchtime seminars, running groups after work, and in my legacy, they even expanded this to yoga and walking groups, all within the confines of the office building.

How it unfolded:

The day began at 5 am for me. My segment of the torch relay started at Main St. (Markham) and Robinson St, which, was a good 1 hour drive from my downtown Toronto home. We had to be there at least 2 hours before the first torchbearer needed to be sent off for that section of the relay, so I took my time to get ready – had breakfast, sorted out my uniform (and the 6 layers I was going to wear underneath, as it was -10 degrees celsius in the morning!), and began the drive up to Markham.

When we were there, we were introduced to the various other torchbearers that were running with the torch at that location – there must have been at least 20 other people. We had a great pep talk, given by the team leader of this group. The leader then distributed our torches. When I held the torch, I was surprised at how light it was – it was almost as if I was holding a carbon seatpost belonging to a bike!

Everyone had the option to purchase the torch, and, given that this event was a once in a lifetime event, everyone purchased their torch, including myself.

The Torch Relay

After a brief warmup and an introduction to how to carry the torch, we were huddled into a bus. On the bus, we were shown this extremely emotional video to the tune of Coldplay’s “Fix You”. The video included scenes of many different torch relays in the past, and the most striking image of the video was the tears that were streaming down a torchbearer’s face who had the biggest smile. Man, there wasn’t a single dry eye on that bus after the video!

Here is the video we were shown:

So, after drying up my tears, it was finally my turn. They dropped me off at my location, and there was a massive photo operation – everyone thought I was some professional athlete. They asked me what sport I was competing in! Well, the best I’ve ever done was that I competed at the 2008 ITU Worlds (Age Group race). They seemed impressed.

Within minutes, the caravan of parade cars and police vehicles came by, and it was finally my turn. I was introduced to the main bodyguard who was to escort me throughout the 300m run, and he turned my torch on. Then, as the gas made the hissing sound, I saw the preceding torchbearer approach the exchange spot. My eyes swelled up with tears, from being proud and happy, and I psyched up the crowd as best as I could. We did the flame exchange, and I glanced up at the flame for a moment and realized how important this was to a nation.

I don’t remember much during my segment – all I remember was just being the happiest athlete, ever. The dozens, if not hundreds, of people cheering on Main Street will live with me forever. Here are some pictures from the event.

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