2010 Torch relay builds momentum in Red Deer

The man behind the Vancouver 2010 Olympic torch relay stopped in Red Deer on Thursday to congratulate star athletes and inspire them to compete in the world’s most renowned sporting event.

The man behind the Vancouver 2010 Olympic torch relay stopped in Red Deer on Thursday to congratulate star athletes and inspire them to compete in the world’s most renowned sporting event.

As keynote speaker of the 2009 Red Deer Community Sports Awards Banquet, Jim Richards spurred on competitors to see the Olympics as an achievable dream. He himself works with a team of 38 in Vancouver aspiring to make the torch run a success for all of the world to see.

“We all play our positions, but at the same time there’s no job description that can really encompass what we really need to accomplish,” Richards said. “That goes with anyone aspiring to be an Olympian . . . you pick up and play whatever role is necessary and you do it with a smile and you do it with pride.”

Richards also encouraged the community to get involved as a torchbearer or volunteer with the Red Deer torch run celebrations on Jan. 15. More information is online at www.reddeer.ca

Red Deer is one of 187 Canadian communities chosen to host a free event as the torch passes through on its way to its final destination in Vancouver.

The Red Deer organizing committee will choose a person from the community to do the last leg of the torch run leading into Westerner Park where the party will occur.

Richards said there are about 210 days left to Oct. 30, the start of the torch run that will span 45,000 kilometres and involve 12,000 torchbearers. It will pass through 1,000 communities including Hobbema, Ponoka, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake on Jan. 15.

“We’ve gone from what the celebration could look like to really starting to nail it down,” Richards said. “Communities are now engaging with local volunteers and deciding who is doing what.”

Richards expects the weather will be a key challenge as the Olympic torch makes its way across Canada’s vastness.

“We can put all the planning we want into play — road times, even ferry times — but if we get two or three days of extremely bad weather, that really gets us into contingency planning. How do we accommodate those torchbearers who are potentially missing their opportunity?”

The Winter Olympics will be held from Feb. 12 to 28 next year.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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