On October 22nd, months before the Olympic games begin, a group of eleven women representing Vestal virgins (Vesta is the goddess of the hearthfire) gathered at the Temple of Hera to kindle the Olympic flame from the rays of the sun. This flame has been transported across the globe to Vancouver, carried by Canadian hands all across the country. The journey by air, land, and water has taken 106 days.
Last night, I caught my first glimpse of the flame reflected in the window of a local pub, and instantly began jumping up and down yelling, “I see it! I see it! There it is!” At the street corner, two torchbearers met, the flame was passed, and off it ran up the hill, right by me. It took just a moment, then that moment was gone, but the feelings I had stayed with me. It’s the first time I’ve really been excited about something in a long time . . . I don’t mean like “Oh goody, it’s payday!” excitement or “Hey look! Free cupcakes!” excitement. I mean little kid seeing Santa with a bag of goodies excitement. It was cool. And someone did give me a free Coke Zero and a hot cross bun.
This morning, the Governator of California himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, helped kick off the final leg of the torch relay in Stanley Park. The fathers of Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky are also taking part in today’s final run, but the last torchbearer is still a secret. I’ll be watching CTV tonight to find out who it is.
There are demonstrations and protests taking place, and the torch is headed for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where street life is a harsh reality, half-buried under the glitz ofthe Games. Protesters have said they want to prevent people from going into BC Place for the opening ceremonies, but I really hope that doesn’t happen. As much as they have the right to be heard, so does everyone else have the right to enjoy this moment unhindered.
I have been ambivalent about it all up to now—strong feelings either way. It’s a huge hassle and money could have been better spent elsewhere, I’m certain. But the fact remains, the Olympics are right here, right now. And the world really is watching.
It means something. All of this means something. Despite all the crankiness about “inconvenience” and all the protests and politics about where Olympic money could have been better spent, all of this MEANS something. People are smiling. People are cheering. People are feeling good things inside. For the athletes who have trained so hard, for the people who have come to sing and dance and welcome the global community to this beautiful place, for the imports like myself who have come to love a new country, this really is a big deal. The Olympic Dream is real. Tonight, the final cauldron will be lit and that ancient fire will burn in the heart of this city. I’m ready. Let the games begin.