Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now that's a FIRE!

There’s been a lot of rumour and speculation about who will light the Olympic flame in Vancouver once the torch has reached its final destination. From Canadian Olympic heroes, to celebrities to politicians and everyone in between, opinions differ from everyone you ask. Over the history of the Olympic Games that I’ve watched, the majority of final torchbearers have been pretty much forgettable, aside from a few key memorable moments. I barely remember a kid lighting the flame in Calgary in ’88 to symbolize the world’s youth coming together, but the Summer Games in South Korea were a bit more fantastic in the cauldron category that same year. I’ll never forget the doves being released as a symbol of world peace, then watching them rest on the rim of the Olympic flame cauldron, only to get barbequed upon ignition (fast fwd to the 4:30 mark!)

Barcelona upped the coolness factor by having a Paralympic archer sling a flaming arrow up to the cauldron to ignite the flame in ’92. Although he overshot and it was set up to light automatically, it still looked impressive and was pretty original. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the States in ’96 with their overcommercialized hillbilly Atlanta Games. Personally I was a bit disappointed that Eddie Murphy’s Uncle Gus didn’t douse the caudron in gasoline and let ‘er rip!

"Two gallons of gasoline, you kids roll up your shirt we're gonna start a fire!...He be alright. Roll Charlie ‘round! Roll him around!”

Instead, they provided for one of the classier flame ceremonies and definitely one of the most memorable with Muhammad Ali atop the stage as the final torchbearer. Ali, as Cassius Clay had won the gold medal in the 1960 Olympic Games but as story goes (and still debated), had thrown his medal into the Ohio river upset at racial prejudice after not being served at a whites-only restaurant after returning back to the States.

2000 took on a political approach to the final torchbearer in Sydney as well, as Cathy Freeman, the country’s aboriginal athletic hero lit the flame in an emotional moment meant to symbolize breaking barriers and destroying political issues that affected aboriginal peoples of Australia for years. The nation celebrated Freeman’s 400m victory just a week later cementing her status as national icon. This opening was obviously a memorable one to me as well, working for Sydney’s Olympic Games and celebrating a successful lead-up to the Olympics that Juan Antonio Samaranche would later declare “The Best Olympics Ever” for the final time in his reign as IOC President.

I also remember 2002 Salt Lake City’s Winter Games, probably because it was somewhat recent. The 1980 USA “Miracle on Ice” team came out and lit the cauldron together, which I guess was kinda cool to have a whole hockey team do it, although I still haven’t brought myself to rent “Miracle” and really have no desire to watch US sport propaganda. Maybe someday. 2004 in Greece was some windsurfer or something. I had to google it to check because I really couldn’t remember, so it doesn’t make the cut, and as for Beijing – I only remember the Opening Ceremony show as a whole. The spectacle of it all was pretty impressive, but the flame-lighting itself didn’t stick in my mind. Which brings us to Vancouver.

Pretty much every Canadian even remotely famous has been mentioned as a potential final torchbearer to light the flame in Vancouver this coming February. Nancy Greene, Terry Fox’s mom, Bryan Adams, the list goes on and on. You can pretty much bet that Vancouver wants to make it a memorable choice. I’d also bet that in the final bunch of torchbearers, you’ll see some familiar faces, and some Canadian Olympic medalists from past Games. Representation of our two official languages and recognizing our cultural diversity will have to be thrown into the mix as well I’d imagine. So taking rumour, speculation, a dash of common sense, and of course some fun into account, I see the final portion of the torch relay leading to the igniting of the official Olympic Flame in Vancouver happening sorta like this…

Jason Priestley enters the stadium on the back of Luke Perry’s motorcycle - all while the orchestra belts out Chilliwack’s My Girl - and hands off to David Suzuki. Suzuki, not wanting to take any blame for the torch’s air pollution, takes only a short sequence of carbon footprints, and quickly dishes it to all-time Canuck Captain Trevor Linden. Linden records his 493rd career assist by passing to Burnaby Joe Sakic, 2002 Olympic hockey hero who scores the torch. With a wicked flick of the wrist, Sakic quickly fires it past Mike Richter blocker-side over to Michael J. Fox as Bob Cole screams “Surely – That’s gotta be it!!” But Bob, there’s more! Not wanting to mimic Atlanta or show favoritism to Parkinson’s research, the ever-witty Fox sits down onto a rolling office chair à la the Family Ties opening (not the original, but the 2nd version I believe) and Alex P. Keaton’s it off to Cindy Klassen and Marc Gagnon who share the honor, each with one hand on the torch, and the other hand waving behind their backs to cut the wind resistance. In yet another surprising twist, the two speed skaters make their way towards Relic of the Beachcombers who log-rolls around the track to a waiting Pam Anderson in her best snow-nymph outfit grabbing the torch. Pam bounces up and down the bleachers a few times and runs up to Rick Hansen, who because he is at perfect eye level, takes his sweet time receiving the torch from Pammy. Hansen – Canadian hero and forever the man in motion, confirms many people’s speculation that he would be Canada’s final torch-bearer and wheels his way to a ramp which elevates him high atop the Olympic Stadium to ignite the flame that will symbolize Vancouver’s triumphant Games. Eddy the Eagle sneaks out from behind the cauldron and bombs his way down the ramp on skis, jumping into the crowd. Good show!

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