Do you have Olympic fever yet?
The excellent display of curling at the men’s and women’s trials in Edmonton last week, which saw Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard snag berths to the Vancouver Games in February, surely stirred Olympic spirit. And you can bet it will spike even more when the roster for our men’s hockey team is unveiled Dec. 30 amid great fanfare.
No doubt many chests also swelled with national pride when diminutive octogenarian Barbara Ann Scott, who won gold in figure skating back in 1948, proudly carried the Olympic torch into the House of Commons last Thursday amid a standing ovation and impromptu chants of “Go Canada Go” from MPs of all stripes.
Then there’s the daily images and stories of Canadians—famous and ordinary alike—taking part in the Olympic torch run as it continues its 106-day, 45,000-km cross-Canada journey.
It’s a shame Rainy River District residents once again have been denied the chance to experience the magic of the Olympics up close. As happened back in 1988 when Calgary was the host city, the torch run will cut through Northwestern Ontario along the Trans-Canada Highway­—forcing people here to travel to Dryden or Kenora if they want to cheer on the flame as it passes by on Jan. 4.
Sure, the stretch of pavement between Dryden and Kenora is the shortest route. But it’s also pretty desolate (no disrespect to Oxdrift, Minnitaki, Eagle Lake First Nation, and Vermilion Bay) compared to the communities of Couchiching, Fort Frances, Alberton, La Vallee, Devlin, Emo, Rainy River First Nations, Finland, Nestor Falls, Onigaming, and Sioux Narrows that dot Highway 11 and Highway 71 from east to north. And that’s not counting Barwick, Stratton, Pinewood, Rainy River, and others a relatively short drive away.
Yet for the second-straight time, torch relay organizers shunned the ‘U’-shaped jaunt through our neck of the woods (could they not have used snowmobiles to ferry the torch down Highway 502?)
Being ignored by the torch run again is bad enough. But last time the town at least made an effort to tap into the Olympic fever by sending Little Amik (Dave Egan) to “steal” the flame from local torchbearer Alison Ogden at the start of her one-kilometre run just east of Dryden.
The plan didn’t work to perfection but, long story short, the flame was brought back to Fort Frances that night so a cauldron could be lit here to burn for the duration of the Games.
Too bad a similar ceremony has not been planned this time around. It would have been a great way to ignite community spirit, draw visitors from across the district and even from across the river, and perhaps create some media exposure for our area.
We’ve missed a golden opportunity to turn the torch snub into a positive—all the more regrettable given it could be another 20-plus years before the Winter Olympics return to Canada.