First you hear the cheering, then you see the fire.
That’s what it’s like to watch the Olympic Torch Relay. I lined up with thousands of others to watch Michael Bublé carry the flame outside our Vancouver condo last night.
It got louder as he approached and then we got a fleeting glimpse of the smiling singer with the torch in his left hand as he jogged by with a trail of security guards on bicycles under hovering helicopters.
Bublé was just one of the dozens of celebrity torchbearers to carry the flame in the last 48 hours of the relay. Earlier that day singer Jann Arden, NBA star Steve Nash and former hockey player Trevor Linden also carried the flame. The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the star torchbearer Friday morning.
But as much as Vancouver loves Bublé, he wasn’t picked to light the community cauldron at the end of the day. That honour went to Ken Lyotier, until now a man known only in Vancouver and even then just barely.
Lyotier is the founder of United We Can, a recycling depot in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. The depot has provided employment to the unemployable by giving people a chance to collect cans and bottles for money. Lyotier was once homeless himself. Today, he does well and he does Vancouver proud.
The city is know for having a visible homeless population, our mild weather attracting people from all over Canada to our streets. That’s what fuels some of the anti-Olympics protesters who are planning a rally Friday before the Opening Ceremonies. A counter pro-Olympics rally is also planned. If a fight between two women with opposite views of the Games at a Vancouver college on Thursday is any indication, the two rallies will be passionate.
Welcome to the Vancouver Games, where the homeless share some of the Olympic spotlight and the former homeless get to carry the torch.