Olympic Torch Relay

I spent four days on the road with Calgary Herald columnist Valerie Fortney covering the 2010 Vancouver Olympics torch relay in southern Alberta, Canada.

We were somewhat disappointed when we realized that it wasn’t a relay in the true sense of the word. It turns out the flame isn’t carried from town to town by consecutive runners, but instead kept in a lantern, driven in a corporate sponsored convoy. The lantern is then used to light a runner’s torch on the edge of town. The flame makes it’s way through the streets to the other end of town where it is put back into it’s lantern and driven off to the next stop.

So much for my hopes of capturing an inspiring image of a lone torch bearer running along a barren stretch of highway at sunset.

However, the fact the flame was driven from town to town allowed for it to visit more towns and spend more time in those communities, than would have been given had they had to run it across the country. It was in these cities, towns, villages and hamlets of Alberta where the Olympic spirit was so very apparent.

In villages like Seven Persons, Alberta the populations swelled far beyond their census listed 750 for the torch’s 15 minute stop in town.
People were drawn to the torch like, well…um…ok…moths to a flame. They just wanted to see it, to be connected to something bigger than themselves. To have their own Olympic experience. And that spirit was no more obvious than in the genuine joy on the faces of the torch bearers during their short term in charge of the flame.

It was all very organized with each runner receiving detailed instructions. Thanks to this attention to detail a couple of runners were fortunate enough to run their leg atop Drumheller’s Hoodoos, in an obviously manufactured photo-op. Still, quite a good image!

Though it was easy to be cynical of how much of it was staged and the relay’s corporate sponsorship, which occasionally bordered on shameful, the convoy’s workers evoked a little envy from me. For over 100 days they would be traveling on the road, working endless hours, quite literally repeating themselves during the various community celebrations, often in torrid weather. However, they got to travel across this amazing country, embrace it’s magnificent splendor and experience all it has to offer.

Sometimes that splendor took the form of something like the Gopher Museum in Torrington, Alberta.

Images ©2010 Stuart Gradon/Calgary Herald

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