Coming to a town near you. Or maybe not?

by Ken MacQueen

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This Friday, Nov. 21, is the day that The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee will release the 35,000 route of the torch relay.

This is a project, more than a year in the making, that is fraught with challenges. For every community that gets a peek at the flame, others will feel left out. For each of the 12,000 who will carry the torch, thousands more will be left in the cold, though not for want of trying on the organizers’ part. No one knows the stakes better than VANOC boss John Furlong, as he told Maclean’s earlier this year:

“It’s the biggest country in the world to ever have a winter Olympic relay. And our relay will be the longest in Olympic history. Internally, the challenge we’ve put to our team is don’t be telling us the reasons why we’re going somewhere. You’d better come up with a darn good reason why we’re not going somewhere. If there’s a reason why you’re not going to this little community in the Far North, it better be darn good—so good that they would understand. I have this [vision]. We’re in a small town in the North, 50 days before the Olympic Games. We have a celebration and the whole community comes out. The children have the flame and they feel it and they see it, and that’s their Olympic Games. Now, fast-forward to the Olympics and the torch enters the stadium. Well, they helped get it there and in that way they have a sense of ownership. I can’t get out of my head how important it is to put the flame into as many hands as we can.”

Coca-Cola and RBC will be the two sponsors of the torch relay, underwriting most of the $31 million budget. Already one thing is certain, though the flame will be carried from its spiritual home in Greece, don’t expect it to take an ambitious world tour. That proved an explosive disaster for China this summer, and sponsors were alarmed at the unanticipated backlash. The flame will stay in Canada, and that will be more than enough of a challenge.




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