Volunteers embrace torch relay

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Thousands of everyday Canadians have been lacing up their running shoes and practising for their moment in the spotlight as official torchbearers in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay is now officially underway with medal–winning Olympians Simon Whitfield and Catriona Le May Doan being the first torchbearers to hold the Olympic Flame aloft on Canadian soil at the start of the historic 106–day journey on 30 October 2009. The relay is being presented by Coca–Cola and RBC and supported by the Government of Canada. Approximately 12, 000 people from coast to coast to coast will run, walk, paddle, wheel, sail, and even fly when their turn comes during the history making 106–day, 45, 000–kilometre journey across Canada. In November 2008, when the 1, 030 communities along the torch route were announced, two complementary initiatives started to allocate a total of 8, 500 public torchbearer spots. The first initiative was application programmes run by Coca–Cola and RBC in partnership with the Vancouver Organising Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). Canadians applied from every corner of the country by submitting details on how they will commit to live more active lives, or are inspired to create a better Canada. The second initiative was the awarding of the remainder of the 8, 500 public spots through other programmes such as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay Aboriginal programme and the nearly 200 relay route celebration communities, who have selected local torchbearers to carry the flame as part of their community celebrations. Many communities have chosen to keep these names confidential until their celebration starts. Two days prior until the start of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, VANOC's team and partners were in the finals stages of calling Canadians to let them know they've been successful in their applications. Andrea Shaw, VANOC's vice president sponsorship sales and marketing who has overall responsibility for the relays said: "It's been completely inspiring making these calls and hearing the excitement from hundreds of people, from teenagers to senior citizens, in every province and territory who can hardly wait to be a part of Canada's Games and carry the Olympic Flame. "In addition to the public torchbearer programmes, which will see an unprecedented number of public torchbearers selected, approximately 30% of the total torchbearer positions were allocated to groups, such as Canada's national winter sport organisations, the Canadian Olympic Committee and VANOC's 60–plus Games sponsors, who are critical to the success of the relay and the 2010 Winter Games. This allocation is similar to the ticketing allocation VANOC has used for the Games. A small number of positions have also been awarded to well–known Canadian and international figures who embody the Olympic Spirit and have made Canadians proud through their inspirational accomplishments or are Canadians that have gained international acclaim. These individuals include current and former National Hockey League star players Sidney Crosby and Trevor Linden, National Basketball Association (NBA) all–star Steve Nash, chart–topping country music star Shania Twain, legendary ballerina Karen Kain, and the young founders of Free the Children Craig and Marc Kielburger. All 12, 000 torchbearers will carry the flame contained in the curved metre–long winter white torch, designed and manufactured by Bombardier, while wearing keepsake uniforms created by the Hudson's Bay Company. For more information on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay visit http://www. vancouver2010. com/torchrelay.

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