VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Olympic flame entered the home stretch of its 45,000 kilometer (27961.7 miles) journey across Canada on Thursday when it returned to British Columbia, the host province of the February 12-28 Vancouver Winter Games.
Wally Buono, head coach of the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions, took the torch from former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed as it crossed over the provincial border at Kicking Horse Pass, marking another key milestone in the 106-day relay.
"This handoff marks the start of the final leg of the Olympic Flame's historic journey across Canada -- a journey that has connected Canadians like never before," said British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell, who was on hand to welcome the flame.
"The torch relay has touched the farthest points in our nation and spread the spirit of the Games to hundreds of communities and millions of people.
"Today, British Columbians are celebrating the return of the Olympic Flame and cheering it on as it heads toward BC Place Stadium to kick off the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in just 22 days."
The flame began its relay journey across Canada on Oct 30, in Victoria, British Columbia. It first traveled north to the Arctic, and then east to Atlantic Canada, before coming back across the country to the Pacific coast.
It will arrive back in the Vancouver area five days before being used to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony, the first in Winter Games history to be held in an indoor venue.
Writing by Steve Keating in Vancouver; editing by Nick Mulvenney