Friday, November 27, 2009

Paralympic Games organizers seeking torch bearers

By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun

Paralympians Karolina Wisniewska (left) and Brad Leanna model Paralympic torch and torchbearers uniforms for the 2010 Paralympic Games.

Paralympians Karolina Wisniewska (left) and Brad Leanna model Paralympic torch and torchbearers uniforms for the 2010 Paralympic Games.

Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - It's not nearly as long or requires as many people as its Olympic brother, but on Friday the organizers of the 2010 Paralympic Games began accepting applications for its own torch relay.

Starting March 3 in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, and lasting 10 days as it traverses through 11 cities, the Paralympic Torch Relay will need 600 people to carry it across the country.

Three of those torchbearers have now been named, but the Vancouver Organizing Committee said is looking for many more and has opened an online application process to look for those candidates.

Like the Olympic torchbearer selection process, applicants for the Paralympic relay will have to give organizers a reason to pick them. In this case, it will be to "describe why they want to be a torchbearer and how they embody the Paralympic values in their everyday life," Vanoc said in a statement.

Two of the torchbearers named Friday are from Vancouver; Anne Bethune, the president of the Vancouver Adaptive Snow Sports and who has been involved with the Disabled Skiers Association for more than 20 years, and Al Etmanski, the co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network.

Vanoc also identified amputee runner Rick Ball of Orillia, Ont. as a torchbearer.

Bethune was chosen as the first torchbearer for Coca-Cola, one of the two co-sponsors of both the Paralympic and Olympic relays. RBC, the other co-sponsor, picked Etmanski.

John Furlong, the chief executive of Vanoc, said each of the 600 torchbearers will be "individual sparks, adding to the brightness of the Paralympic Flame as it travels towards Vancouver."

Unlike the Olympic flame, which was lit in Olympia, the Paralympic flame, a relatively new phenomenon, has no ancestral home. For that reason it will be lit in an aboriginal-themed event on Parliament Hill involving torchbearers representing every province and territory.

In announcing the relay route and torchbearer selection process, Vanoc also confirmed it has added Toronto - Canada's largest city - to the relay. It is not known why it was left off the list in the first place, but Gary Lunn, said the relay will stop there on March 5.

Most of the relay will be in B.C. The torch will leave Ottawa on March 3 and go to Montreal before heading to Toronto. From there it will jump to Victoria and Esquimalt before heading to Squamish for the start of a circle tour from Whistler to Lytton, Hope and Maple Ridge before hitting Vancouver on March 10-12.

The last day it will say in downtown Vancouver before heading to BC Place for the opening ceremony.

Ball, who hopes to compete for Canada at the 2012 London Paralympics, said he was honored to carry the torch..

"When I took up competitive running two years ago I never dreamed I could be a part of something like this. I know it's often said that dreams can come true if you work hard, but these athletes...they're living proof of this," he said in a statement furnished by Vanoc.

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