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Saturday, Feb. 13

Vancouver came alive on Friday as the Olympic Torch Relay wound its way through the streets of the city for most of the day. In a “Canadian, eh” finish to the day, Wayne Gretzky ferried the final torch in the back of a pickup truck at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies at BC Place Stadium to the outdoor caldron at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Heavy rain failed to deter fans who ran through the streets with the cavalcade.

February 13, 2010
By Paul Dixon

Topics

Several protest
groups did cause minor detours in the torch route throughout the day, but the
large crowds that lined the route were upbeat and defused any potential
problems simply by their numbers and sheer exuberance. A protest crowd of
several thousand did gather outside BC Place Stadium as the opening ceremonies
were about to get underway, but were met by a large contingent of Vancouver
police who kept matters under control by taking a low-key approach, bantering
and kibitzing with the protesters.

While
there were no significant problems with the protestors, there was at least one
RCMP tactical team in the downtown area had there been a problem. The team had
been bussed in to the Hotel Vancouver in the afternoon as I was passing by. A
large crowd was drawn by the motorcycle escort and there was much speculation
as to what “team” it might be. The police uniforms didn’t seem to offer a clue
to the scores of people taking photos. I wondered if there was anyone in the
crowd old enough to have seen the movie Slapshot.
Ya wanna know what team it is?  It’s the
60 Hanson Brothers.

The most
serious threat to Friday’s proceedings was posed by the thousands of people who
ventured into
Stanley Park before sunrise to watch
California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger carry the torch. The security
detail was overwhelmed as people surged forward to see the Torchinator (I am
not making this up!) and while the processoin was halted momentarily, sanity
finally prevailed.

A sombre note was cast over the day by the death of
Georgian
Nodar
Kumartashvili on the sliding track in Whistler. Something that won’t be
reported in the mainstream media is that the emergency medical protocols in
place for such an incident appear to have worked flawlessly, but the trauma was
too severe. Expert medical staff were at his side within seconds and by the
time he was being airlifted to the athlete’s polyclinic at the Whistler Olympic
Village, a trauma team and operating room were on standby in
Vancouver.

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Kumartashvili’s
death underscores the razor’s edge many of these athletes are on and the
stresses they compete with every day. It’s easy to say “no guts – no glory”,
but we have to realize that so many of these athletes are putting it on the
line for little more than room and board.


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