Flame arrives in Canada for 2010 Games

Fri Oct 30, 2009 10:34pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VICTORIA, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Olympic flame arrived in Canada on Friday, beginning a 45,000-km (28,000-mile) trek that will see it crisscross the country before it arrives at next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The flame was handed to Canadian Olympic champions Catriona Le May Doan and Simon Whitfield, the first torch bearers, during a ceremony rich in Canadian aboriginal symbolism in the Pacific Coast city of Victoria, British Columbia.

"This is for all of Canada, we're overwhelmed," speedskater Le May Doan said after the event, which drew roughly 5,000 people to the muddy lawn of the British Columbia Legislature and along the relay route through the streets of Victoria.

The 106-day run will be the longest domestic torch relay in Olympic history, involving some 12,000 torch bearers and passing through 1,037 communities before the flame's arrival at the 2010 Games' opening ceremony on February 12.

The flame, enclosed in a lantern, was flown to Canada from Greece on a military aircraft and delivered to the ceremony by traditional canoes manned by chiefs of aboriginal Indian nations from the Victoria and Vancouver areas.

There were snags in the made-for-television event, including trouble igniting the caldron. Whitfield joked that he and Le May Doan also feared for a moment they had broken the torch when it made a loud clunk during their run.

Organizers say the C$32 million ($30 million) relay will increase interest and support for the Vancouver Games, the third time that Canada will have played host to an Olympics.

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<p>Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper watches ceremonies from behind the Olympic Flame following its arrival in Victoria, British Columbia October 30, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>