In Athens I competed under its glow. In Beijing I saw a man pull himself to the top of a stadium to light it. In Vancouver I will feel its heat on my face. I have been selected to carry the Paralympic Flame on its final relay day, before it enters BC Place and inspires the world.
The Paralympic Torch Relay will start in Ottawa on March 3rd, and end in Vancouver on March 12th. The Flame will travel near and around Robson Square for the last 24 hours, where I will be one to carry it, as excitement builds for Canada to host its first Winter Paralympic Games.
When I saw the Paralympic flame enter the stadium in Athens, the announcer said that torchbearers from the 54 municipalities of Attica took the flame, and carried it in their hearts. So will Canadians across this land.
And, when I accept the flame, I will think about the effect high performance sport has had on my life. I will think of how it has transformed my teammates, and people I know. I will think about how sport is about being better than your opponent and better than your opponent’s country – while respecting them both.
The first Olympic Torch Relay happened at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. It was a piece of Nazi propaganda to construct the superiority of the Aryan race and link it to ancient Greece.
The Vancouver 2010 Torch Relays feature bearers from any race, country, religion, physical or mental ability and political persuasion. I would rather celebrate this transformation than censor it.
I certainly would not have been given the chance to carry such a flame in 1936 Berlin; on March 12th, I will revel in the power of sport, and carry the flame in my heart.
I had not seen the interview of Terry Fox they played at the 2010 Paralympic Opening Ceremonies before. It shook me to my core, and made me realise why carrying the Paralympic Flame meant so much to me, and everyone else who had the honour.
Terry said that he was not running for himself, not for personal glory, but to stop the harm of cancer – one of the largest and most incomprehensible problems our society faces. The average person, does not run across the country when thinking about how to tackle a huge problem like that; they just give up because the issue seems too big.
The Paralympic Flame has no ancestral home, because it lives inside everyone who is inspired by greatness. It is an expression of a committment to empowering – pushing, demanding and expecting – those around us to achieve excellence. Because, that is how we solve problems that seem too big: we take a look at everyone around us, and explode their potential.
When Terry Fox’s parents entered BC Place Stadium, I was very proud to have carried that same flame a few hours earlier. It is a great moment in my life, where I carried the spirit of an international movement for 300 short meters, that I will remember always.
It will remind me that if I keep my flame burning strong, and ignite anyone who comes near me – our combined potential will perhaps live up to the ideals of the Paralympic movement.