"The Paralympic Torch Relay is designed to illuminate the extraordinary achievements of Paralympians and celebrate the endless possibilities of the human spirit," said John Furlong.
The Paralympic Flame, which has no ancestral home, was ignited and blessed this morning by Aboriginal firekeepers of the Pikwakanagan and Kitigan Zibi Algonquin bands on Victoria Island during a special ceremony. It was then placed in a lantern and brought to the Parliament Buildings where it was passed to three youth representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council.
They in turn brought the trio of flames to the stage located on the Hill’s historic front lawn where Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed and Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob, on behalf of the Four Host First Nations, reunited the flames in the Paralympic Cauldron.
Arnold Boldt, celebrated multi-sport Paralympian with many world records to his credit, officially sparked the start of the flame’s journey when he dipped his torch into the Paralympic community cauldron in front of a crowd including the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada; the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages; the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of State (Sport); the Honourable Mary McNeil, Minister of State for the Olympics and ActNow BC, IPC President Sir Philip Craven; Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed; and John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).
"The Paralympic Torch Relay ignites the flame in each one of us, as we witness this exciting lead-in to the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. It will be a magnificent journey for the world to see, with each Aboriginal custom representing not only their own origins, but the Paralympic Spirit and Values,"said Sir Philip Craven, IPC President.
"To carry the Paralympic Flame is truly an honour," said Boldt, who triumphed on home soil at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games in the long jump and set a world record of 1.86m in the high jump. "I hope it sparks inspiration and dreams in people of all abilities across Canada and the world as it travels to Vancouver for the start of the Games. Dreams will come true here in 2010."
Boldt handed off the flame to 15 other torchbearers at the ceremony in Ottawa - one to represent each province and territory. The torchbearers were:
- Founding President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Dr. Robert Steadward (Alberta)
- Comedian Rick Mercer (British Columbia)
- daughter of seven-time Paralympian Clayton Gerein, Jasmine Gerein (Saskatchewan)
- Swimmer Chelsea Gotell (Nova Scotia)
- Swimmer Erica Noonan (Newfoundland and Labrador)
- Golfer Simon Koomak (Nunavut)
- Medal-winning Paralympian Jared Funk (Manitoba)
- Advocate for the rights of people with disabilities Rick Goodfellow (Yukon)
- Ice Sledge Hockey player Colin MacLeod (Prince Edward Island)
- Singer-songwriter Justin Hines (Ontario)
- Paralympic Wheelchair Racer Dean Bergeron (Quebec)
- Swimmer Katherine Elkin (Northwest Territories)
- Four-time Paralympian and Wheelchair Basketball player Sabrina Pettinicchi Durepos (New Brunswick).
Aboriginal dance champion, volunteer, athlete and coach, Justine Belair was selected as a representative of Canada’s Aboriginal communities and the final torchbearer during the Ottawa celebration was marathon runner Rick Ball, selected by VANOC, a three-time world record holder and 2012 Paralympic Summer Games hopeful.
"The Paralympic Torch Relay is designed to illuminate the extraordinary achievements of Paralympians and celebrate the endless possibilities of the human spirit," said John Furlong. "We encourage Canadians to come out and experience the energy and wonder of the Paralympic Flame throughout its 10-day journey."
The Paralympic Flame, carried in a curved steel blue torch designed and manufactured by Bombardier, will visit community celebration sites as follows:
Ottawa (3 March)
Quebec City (4 March)
Toronto (5 March)
Victoria and Esquimalt (6 March)
Squamish (7 March)
Whistler (8 March)
Lytton and Hope (9 March)
Maple Ridge (10 March)
Vancouver (10, 11 and 12 March)
All the torchbearers will receive as their own official keepsake, the matching blue torchbearer uniform, produced by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
"This flame highlights the courage and determination of the Paralympic athletes who have been training long and hard and are ready to shine at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games," said the Prime Minister. "The people of Canada are proud that for the first time in our history, we are hosting the Paralympic Winter Games."
To start each day of the relay, a new Paralympic Flame will be created by members of the local Aboriginal community, in accordance with their customs, wherever the daily torch relay celebration is taking place. Ashes from each flame creation ceremony will be collected and united in the final fire on 11 March at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and then carried to the official opening of the Games.
On 11 March 2010, the relay will turn into a 24-hour event through Vancouver’s downtown core surrounding Robson Square as part of a day-long celebration of culture and sport counting down the final moments until the magical Opening Ceremony of the Games in front of tens of thousands at BC Place.
For more information on the 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay, visit www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay.