The Olympic flame has ignited interest within the UBC community to serve as torch-bearers, helping to carry the Olympic Torch on its journey across Canada. The torch will pass through UBC’s Vancouver campus on Feb. 11, and reach B.C. Place Stadium on Feb. 12 when the Olympic Cauldron will be lit, marking the official start of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The route through UBC’s campus has not yet been disclosed, but the UBC 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Secretariat and UBC REC are planning to mark the torch’s passing through campus with an outdoor evening celebration near UBC Bookstore.
A number of students, faculty, staff and alumni are participating as torch-bearer in many other locations. Ten members of the Faculty of Medicine will be part of a 20-runner BC Medical Association relay team that runs at Olympic Park in Whistler on Feb. 5. Each team member will run 50 metres for a total of one kilometre.
Clinical Associate Prof. Tyler Dumont, of the Dept. of Physical Therapy, will carry the torch for a 300-metre segment in North Vancouver on Feb. 10. Dr. Dumont’s participation recognizes the department’s equipment loan to the Games.
UBC psychiatry resident Dr. Alan Bates carried the torch on Dec. 14 in Cornwall, Ontario as part of the Canadian Medical Association team. Bates is actively involved in Street Soccer Canada, which offers social inclusion through sport for people who struggle with homelessness and other challenges, and he organized the first Vancouver Street Soccer tournament.
“The torch relay highlights a spirit of community engagement, healthy living and teamwork,” says Gavin Stuart, UBC Vice-Provost, Health and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Stuart is part of the Faculty of Medicine relay team in Whistler. “These same elements motivate us as educators and clinicians so it seems a great fit — and an honour — for us to participate.”
More than 1,000 communities and 12,000 torch bearers are involved in the 45,000-kilometre-trans-Canada trek. Begun on Oct. 30, 2009, the relay will be the longest in history to be contained within the Olympic host country.
John Egan of the Office of Learning Technology says he entered the torchbearer selection competition more than 90 times. His persistence paid off with an opportunity to run between Whistler and Merritt on Feb. 6. When he got the congratulatory e-mail, he was moved to tears.
“For me, the torch relay is one of the most magical aspects of the Olympics,” says the 45-year-old. “It’s perhaps the most tangible way a non-athlete can feel connected to the Games.”
Alumna Amanda Yuen, who runs Feb. 10, graduated in May 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Music.
“I have watched the Olympics since I was very young,” says the 23-year-old. “I believe that the Games represent the ideals of human nature: inspiration, camaraderie and achieving your best.”
Yuen says she was “absolutely ecstatic” when notified of her selection. Currently working for Certified General Accountants-Canada, Yuen will also volunteer at UBC Thunderbird Arena during the Paralympic Games.
Marisa Iuvancigh of UBC’s Alumni Association will carry the torch on Feb. 11.
“I was absolutely elated to find out I was going to be carrying the torch,” says the 28-year-old. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and will be a very special memory to have.”
Iuvancigh, who joined UBC in 2007, has completed seven half-marathons, a triathlon and hopes to run a full marathon, but feels that carrying the torch for 300 metres will mean more to her than any of her long-distance accomplishments.
[Yuen and Iuvancigh run locations were not known at press time]
A Paralympics Torch flame will be lit at the Vancouver campus on March 11 in an Aboriginal lighting ceremony followed by a torch run. The flame will then be relit at UBC’s Robson Square campus. Torch bearers for the Paralympics Torch relay have not yet been selected.
University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA) is part of the events planning team for both relays.
“We’re really gearing up for this and excited that an Olympic venue is only two blocks away,” says Jan Fialkowski, UNA executive director. “We want our kids to remember the year the Olympics came to UBC.”
A variety of community celebrations are planned, including open-air parties and welcoming residents to a theatre-style screening of televised events at the Old Barn Community Centre. UNA has also been giving away Games tickets as prizes in competitions that involve community members of all ages.
More information on UBC’s involvement in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays may be found at www.ubc.ca/2010.