As a three-time Canadian Olympic rower, Victoria’s David Calder has witnessed firsthand the Olympic torch’s potential power for peace and reconciliation.
Crystallizing that moment was watching Australian Aborigine sprinter Cathy Freeman light the flame at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
“The way the torch could unite an entire country … for that one moment you knew that everyone was cheering for Cathy Freeman,” Calder said.
“What she symbolized in that moment was more powerful than any racial divide that existed historically for the country.”
The Olympic torch will arrive at Victoria’s airport from Greece just after 7 a.m. on Friday morning. It will then travel 45,000 kilometres across the country over the next 106 days by canoe, horseback, plane and even skateboards.
The torch, which was lit by the sun’s rays in Olympia, Greece last week, was turned over to Vancouver Olympic organizers in a ceremony Thursday night after an eight-day relay through coastal villages and mountain towns in that country.
“My friends, Canadians, we’re giving you the Olympic light to take it to your beautiful country,” Spyros Capralos, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, said through a translator.
“We place it in your hands as part of our history, as part of our culture, as part of our lives.
“We’re sure that the Hellenic Olympic Committee, the athletes and Greeks are happy to tell you: Good luck in 2010 in Vancouver.”
The flame was then handed to John Furlong, VANOCS’s chief executive officer.
“As the flame travels across Canada’s vast landscape, it will shed a light on the people, places and the achievements of our country,” he said. with files from The Canadian Press