Vancouver – Paralympic Torch Ignites

At each destination in Canada’s first Paralympic torch relay, First Nation aboriginal fire-keepers light the torch, and 600 torchbearers carried the Paralympic Spirit. Yesterday, it arrived in Vancouver, BC with great attendance and a public chance to see the Paralympic Torch Relay events.

The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, but the public Paralympic cauldron will be lit this Thursday evening, in Robson Square, by able-bodied Olympian Robert Luongo, captain of the Gold Medal 2010 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team. The crowds are expected to be huge!

The cauldron lighting is part of a round of official celebrations to showcase the Paralympic Winter Games, taking place March 12-21 in Vancouver and in Whistler, BC.

For the Paralympic Games, themselves, more than 500 athletes from more than 40 countries are expected to participate. In the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, they will be competing in 5 sports including ice sledge hockey, wheelchair curling and alpine skiing, biathlon and cross-country skiing. There will be versions in many forms: for the sitting, standing and visually impaired.

Paralympic torch relay gear will be seen all over Vancouver until the cauldron is lit. The track suit is predominantly dark blue, with only minimal green and white accents. It says “Vancouver 2010 Paralympic torch relay” on the back, along with an emblazoned Paralympic symbol, which is composed of three asymmetrical crescents called Agitos.

The Agitos will also replace the Olympic rings on the back of the Paralympic red mittens, which have become an iconic symbol of these Games as thousands feature them as they wave and greet one another. Brilliant choice.

The Paralympic torch shares the same sleek Bombardier design as the Olympic torch but it is slate blue instead of white, and for those handicapped torchbearers who require more time to complete their part of the relay, the torch is refueled.

Today, the relay continues beginning at the University of B.C. from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., where 22 torchbearers will run a 1.1-kilometre route through campus pedestrian areas. And, there will be public performances accompanying the Torch; performers include Ache Brasil Capoeira, UBC Acapella Club and the UBC Dance Team.

Then, at 2 p.m., today the torch will begin 24-hours around Vancouver’s downtown core. Festivities continue along Robson Street, with several stage celebrations at Robson Square, and the highlight include Luongo lighting the celebration cauldron at 6:05 p.m. and former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan speaking at 8:26 p.m.

Toward the end of the 24-hour relay, the torch will continue the multi-vehicle precedent started in the Olympic Relay earlier in January and February. This time the modes of transportation that will be part of a “linear relay” into the Burrard Inlet are: on an adaptive row boat, a Sea King helicopter and on several Canadian naval vessels before heading back on land at 1:45 p.m.

The Paralympic Torch Relay has been a success in promoting interest for the Paralympic Games, and that’s a worthy cause, as 15% of Canadians are handicapped in some form. It will also bring awareness, opportunity, equality and support from the able-bodied population and that is important.

And, as lasting impact, it is critical to raise awareness among the handicapped that Life has no real limits. How you deal with adversity is what counts, and as only 3% of handicapped Canadians lead active life-styles now, versus 31% of able-bodied citizens, then hopefully these Games will show what’s possible and start new BIG dreams!

Brava! Bravo! to all the athletes.

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