Canada looks to build on Olympic glory in generating Paralympic torch relay excitement

08:10, March 05, 2010      

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Fresh off its successful staging of the Winter Olympics, Canada started the celebration for its upcoming hosting of the Paralympics on Wednesday with the launch of a torch relay that will see the flame travel from Ottawa to Vancouver over the next 10 days.

At a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, the flame arrived in a lantern where it had earlier been ignited and blessed by aboriginal firekeepers.

It was then passed on to three aboriginal youth representative before being passed onto the mayors of Vancouver and Whistler, the two centers hosting the March 12-21 Games, and a representative of the Four Host First nations. The flames were then reunited in the Paralympic cauldron.

Unlike the massive cross-country 4,500 kilometers torch relay undertaken for the recently completed Winter Olympics, the Paralympic version is a more of a low-key affair.

After stops in Quebec City on Thursday and Toronto on Friday, the flame will be flown to British Columbia on Saturday where it will travel around the host province before the start of the Paralympics opening ceremony on March 12.

During the nine days of competition, 1,300 athletes from 44 countries and regions will compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, curling and sledge hockey.

China dominated the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing when it won 211 medals, including 89 gold, but the country will have a relatively small team in Vancouver, competing in such sports as wheelchair curling.

With Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper looking on, Arnold Boldt, a one-legged veteran of Paralympics dating back to 1976 when he won two gold medals in high-jump, dipped his torch in the cauldron to mark the start of the torch relay that will visit 11 communities in all.

"To carry the Paralympic flame is truly an honor,”said Boldt who handed off the flame to 15 other torchbearers, each representing the 12 Canadian provinces and three territories. “I hope it sparks inspiration and dreams in people of all abilities across Canada and the world as it travels to Vancouver for the start of the Games. Dreams will come true here in 2010.”

One day before the ruling Conservative Party announces its federal budget expected to tackle the country’s 56 billion Canadian dollar deficit, Harper basked in the glow of the country’s strong performance at the Winter Olympics where Canada won a record 14 gold medals, saying the “flame burning here should make us all very proud”.

“That is the flame that brought our country together, the flame that’s lit up Canada’s Games, the flame that has inspired our young men and women to achieve great new heights for Canada,” he told Paralympians, dignitaries and members of the public in attendance.

“In Canada, sports matter and the Olympic Games matter, the Parlaympics Games matter. You are making our country proud, you are providing our children with a new generation of role models, with a new generation of heroes hoisting the Maple Leaf over the podium and making us proud all over again. You can do it, go Canada go!”

Philip Craven, the International Paralympic Committee president, added the appearance of the distinct curved steel blue torch designed and manufactured by Canadian aerospace and train manufacturing giant Bombardier, would generate excitement for the Games as it travelled towards Vancouver.

"The Paralympic torch relay ignites the flame in each one of us, as we witness this exciting lead-in to the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. It will be a magnificent journey for the world to see,” he said.

Source: Xinhua
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