First-ever Canadian Paralympic Torch Relay signals the start of
Vancouver/Whistler Games

Unique flame ceremonies to see ashes from all 13 celebration sites united in final flame at Opening Ceremony March 12

OTTAWA, March 3 /CNW/ - As Canada gets ready to host the world's best Paralympic winter athletes starting on March 12, the inspirational 10-day journey of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay is officially underway with the first group of Paralympic Torchbearers - one from each province and territory - gathering in the nation's capital to create stories that will inspire the nation. More than 600 torchbearers will proudly carry the flame as the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay, presented by Coca-Cola and RBC and supported by the Government of Canada and the Province of BC, visits 11 communities over the next 10 days, culminating in the lighting of the Paralympic Cauldron at BC Place in downtown Vancouver on March 12, 2010. Tickets for the Opening Ceremony are still available (see ticketing information below).

The Paralympic Flame, which has no ancestral home, was ignited and blessed this morning by Aboriginal firekeepers of the Pikwakanagan and Kitigan Zibi Algonquin bands on Victoria Island during a special ceremony. It was then placed in a lantern and brought to the Parliament Buildings where it was passed to three youth representatives from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Métis National Council.

They in turn brought the trio of flames to the stage located on the Hill's historic front lawn where Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed and Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob, on behalf of the Four Host First Nations, reunited the flames in the Paralympic Cauldron.

Arnold Boldt, celebrated multi-sport Paralympian with many world records to his credit, officially sparked the start of the flame's journey when he dipped his torch into the Paralympic community cauldron in front of a crowd including the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada; the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages; the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of State (Sport); the Honourable Mary McNeil, Minister of State for the Olympics and ActNow BC, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed; and John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

"To carry the Paralympic Flame is truly an honour," said Boldt, who triumphed on home soil at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic Games in the long jump and set a world record of 1.86 metres in the high jump. "I hope it sparks inspiration and dreams in people of all abilities across Canada and the world as it travels to Vancouver for the start of the Games. Dreams will come true here in 2010."

Boldt handed off the flame to 15 other torchbearers at the ceremony in Ottawa - one to represent each province and territory. The torchbearers were:

    
    -   Founding president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)
        Dr. Robert Steadward (Alberta);
    -   comedian Rick Mercer (British Columbia);
    -   daughter of seven-time Paralympian Clayton Gerein, Jasmine Gerein
        (Saskatchewan);
    -   swimmer Chelsea Gotell (Nova Scotia);
    -   swimmer Erica Noonan (Newfoundland and Labrador);
    -   golfer Simon Koomak (Nunavut);
    -   medal-winning Paralympian Jared Funk (Manitoba);
    -   advocate for the rights of people with disabilities Rick Goodfellow
        (Yukon);
    -   ice sledge hockey player Colin MacLeod (Prince Edward Island);
    -   singer-songwriter Justin Hines (Ontario);
    -   Paralympic wheelchair racer Dean Bergeron (Quebec);
    -   para-swimmer Katherine Elkin (Northwest Territories);
    -   four-time Paralympian and wheelchair basketball player Sabrina
        Pettinicchi Durepos (New Brunswick).
    

Aboriginal dance champion, volunteer, athlete and coach, Justine Belair was selected as a representative of Canada's Aboriginal communities and the final torchbearer during the Ottawa celebration was marathon runner Rick Ball, selected by VANOC, a three-time world record holder and 2012 Paralympic Summer Games hopeful.

"The Paralympic Torch Relay is designed to illuminate the extraordinary achievements of Paralympians and celebrate the endless possibilities of the human spirit," said John Furlong. "We encourage Canadians to come out and experience the energy and wonder of the Paralympic Flame throughout its 10-day journey."

"The Paralympic Torch Relay ignites the flame in each one of us, as we witness this exciting lead-in to the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. It will be a magnificent journey for the world to see, with each Aboriginal custom representing not only their own origins, but the Paralympic spirit and values," said Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee.

The Paralympic Flame, carried in a curved steel blue torch designed and manufactured by Bombardier, will visit community celebration sites as follows:

    
    -   Ottawa (March 3)
    -   Quebec City (March 4)
    -   Toronto (March 5)
    -   Victoria and Esquimalt (March 6)
    -   Squamish (March 7)
    -   Whistler (March 8)
    -   Lytton and Hope (March 9)
    -   Maple Ridge (March 10)
    -   Vancouver (March 10, 11 and 12)
    

All the torchbearers will receive as their own official keepsake, the matching blue torchbearer uniform, produced by the Hudson's Bay Company.

"This flame highlights the courage and determination of the Paralympic athletes who have been training long and hard and are ready to shine at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games," said the Prime Minister. "The people of Canada are proud that for the first time in our history, we are hosting the Paralympic Winter Games."

To start each day of the relay, a new Paralympic Flame will be created by members of the local Aboriginal community, in accordance with their customs, wherever the daily torch relay celebration is taking place. Ashes from each flame creation ceremony will be collected and united in the final fire on March 11 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and then carried to the official opening of the Games

"The Government of Canada is extremely proud to support the Paralympic Torch relay, which will allow us to show Canadian excellence to the entire world," said James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. "Canada is getting ready to host the Paralympic Winter Games for the first time. It will be great to celebrate this important moment in our history with Canadians from all over the country."

"Collecting and uniting ashes from each ceremony will truly bring the entire country together as the Paralympic Winter Games approach in the Host Province of British Columbia," said Mary McNeil, Minister of State for the Olympics and ActNow BC. "We have seen the ability of a tiny flame to inspire this country. We want the Paralympic Flame to create a flicker in British Columbians, Canadians and citizens of the world - a flicker of inspiration, moments of pride and a renewed belief that anything is possible."

On March 11, 2010, the relay will turn into a 24-hour event through Vancouver's downtown core surrounding Robson Square as part of a day-long celebration of culture and sport counting down the final moments until the magical Opening Ceremony of the Games in front of tens of thousands at BC Place.

"The world's best winter Paralympians are powerful reminders that if you keep pursuing your dreams, no matter the obstacles, you can achieve great things," said Mayor Robertson. "We look forward to welcoming these inspirational athletes to our city and cheering on all the amazing people who will carry the flame on its journey to Vancouver for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games."

"This relay is all about celebrating everyday heroes who embody the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration, and equality in their everyday life - much like the Paralympians who will inspire us with their performances in Whistler at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Olympic Games, starting in just 10 days," said Mayor Melamed.

For more information on the 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay, visit www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay.

About the 2010 Paralympic Games/Ticket information

Approximately 1,000 athletes and officials from more than 40 countries will take part in five sports (alpine and cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey, wheelchair curling and biathlon) at the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler. The international sporting event comes just 12 days after the region hosts the Olympic Winter Games.

Tickets for all Paralympic events are available at www.vancouver2010.com. Tickets for the Opening Ceremony at BC Place on March 12 range in price from $30 to $175. Individual ticket prices to sport events start at $15. Group ticket prices - available for most sport events for groups of 20 or more people - are just $10. More than 70 per cent per cent of all individual tickets are priced at $20 or less.

Customers may also purchase tickets at Main Ticket Centre locations in Vancouver and Whistler operated by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), or by phone at 1.800.TICKETS (1.800.842.5387). A TDD/TTY service is available for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing at 604.629.7140.

About VANOC

VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Please visit www.vancouver2010.com for more information.

About the Government of Canada

The Government of Canada is proud to make 2010 a celebration for all Canadians. Through strategic investments in programming and funding, the spirit and excitement will be felt far and wide and leave lasting legacies for future generations. Through the Olympic Torch Relay and Paralympic Torch Relay, the Government of Canada is supporting citizen and community participation, as well as the inclusion of Aboriginal, ethnocultural and official language communities. For more information on the Government of Canada's contribution to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, visit www.Canada2010.gc.ca.

About Coca-Cola and the Olympic and Paralympic Movements

The Coca-Cola Company has been associated with the Olympic Games since 1928 and is the longest continuous corporate supporter of the Olympic Movement. Through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Coca-Cola encourages people to create their own path of "positivity" in everyday life by believing that anything is possible. The Coca-Cola Company is the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage provider to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. For more information about Coca-Cola Canada, please visit our website at www.cocacola.ca or our parent company's website at www.thecoca-colacompany.com.

About RBC

As part of our commitment to help create a better Canada, RBC sponsors amateur sport, from grassroots programs in local communities to national sport associations that support the development of amateur athletes who compete at home and abroad. As a long standing supporter of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Teams, RBC continues its sponsorship through the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and is proud to help showcase Olympic and Paralympic sport as presenting partner of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relays. RBC is also a premier sponsor of Hockey Canada, the Canadian Snowboard Team, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team, Athletics Canada and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. Visit www.rbc.com/sponsorship.

About the Government of British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia is the proud Host Province for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The Paralympic Torch Relay represents a significant opportunity to create understanding and awareness about people with disabilities and the Paralympic Movement. Through the Paralympic Torch Relay, the Government of British Columbia is promoting healthy communities, healthy lifestyles and individual excellence. For more information on British Columbia's contribution to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, visit www.gov.bc.ca/themes/2010olympics.

SOURCE VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

For further information: For further information: Media Contacts: Chris Shauf, Vancouver 2010 Torch Relay Media Relations, (778) 835-7894, chris_shauf@vancouver2010.com

Organization Profile

VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

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