on November 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Olympic flame journeys by foot, bike, wheelchair

DUNCAN, British Columbia (AP) — A day after protests disrupted the relay, Olympic torchbearers ran, rode and rolled through Vancouver Island towns Saturday early in the journey across Canada.

The 106-day relay will visit more than a thousand communities in its trip across provinces and territories by the time it reaches the opening ceremony for the Vancouver Games on Feb. 12.

The first day of the relay was marked by several hundred people in Victoria on Friday night protesting Olympic spending. Security officials diverted the route and canceled the runs of several torchbearers.

The flame arrived in Canada on Friday after it traversed Greece for a week. It was ignited in the ruins of an ancient temple in Olympia and handed to Canadians in Athens. The relay route is nearly 28,000 miles, the longest domestic relay in Olympic history.

In Duncan, nearly 40 miles north of Victoria, hundreds of people lined both sides of a street near the historic downtown train station to cheer the torchbearers.

Virginia Szabo was draped in a huge Canadian flag as brother Jared ran past her carrying the torch. Jared’s mother, Lori Robb-Szabo, said her sports-loving son could barely contain himself.

“Hyped. Absolutely hyped,” she said.

Earlier in the day, the flame visited Fort Rodd Hill in Colwood. It was welcomed by the Royal Canadian Legion, the 5th B.C. Field Regiment, a Royal Canadian Artillery brass band and spectators dressed in military period dress.

Jeff Hollands, one of 120 veterans carrying the torch, rode his wheelchair to Fort Rodd Hill, the site of a 19th century coastal artillery fort. He trained for the relay by lifting milk jugs.

“What an honor to represent my country,” Hollands said. “It was just an unbelievable experience.”

The torch was paddled across a lake by a team of Olympic rowers on its first day. On Sunday, it will be carried on a skateboard and logging truck. In northern Canada, it will be pulled by dogsled and transported on an Inuit kayak.

Annie Ewart, a 16-year-old aspiring road racer, is one of several cyclists to carry the torch.

“It was really cool,” she said. “It was awesome to be able to take the torch while riding my bike.”