Olympic Flame entrusted to Canada for Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games at
handover ceremony in Greece

    
    Flame to arrive on Canadian soil in less than 24 hours for start of
    longest domestic relay in Olympic history
    

ATHENS, Oct. 29 /CNW/ - As Greek children waved the blue and white striped flag of their country hand-in-hand with the red and white Maple Leaf, Greek officials entrusted the Olympic Flame to a Canadian delegation for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games this evening in a moving ceremony at Panathinaiko Stadium in downtown Athens.

In less than 24 hours from now in Victoria, BC, the flame will emerge from a Canadian Forces CC-150 Polaris (Airbus A-310) aircraft in a miner's lantern and arrive on Canadian soil for the start of its 106-day journey across the second largest country in the world.

The handover ceremony, which involved Greek President Karolos Papoulias and Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, took place within the confines of the storied white marble Panathinaiko Stadium, dating back to 329 BC, that played host to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

After a week-long relay across Greece from Olympia to Athens, a group of priestesses in traditional dress entered the stadium and positioned themselves around a classic Greek pillar. The final torchbearer of the Greek leg of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay - Nikki Georgiadis, a Greek Canadian figure skater from Pickering, ON - then entered the stadium running with the Olympic Flame and lit the ceremonial Greek cauldron with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch.

"We entrust this sacred flame to our Canadian friends for safekeeping and wish them spectacular and successful Olympic Games as they welcome the world's best winter athletes in 2010," said Spyros Capralos, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), before passing the Olympic Flame to John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC).

Furlong enthusiastically accepted the flame stating "on behalf of all Canadians we accept the Olympic Flame with humility and respect. This moment marks the beginning of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay and we take with us the knowledge that the flame represents much more than a sporting event. It embodies the values of peace, friendship and respect, and has the power to unite, inspire and bring harmony to the world."

Following the handover, Aboriginal flame attendants Dina Ouellette, 22, of of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation in New Brunswick, and 23-year-old Aronhiaies Herne, of the Mohawk community of Akwesasne in Central Canada, used a wand to capture the flame and light a miner's lantern for safekeeping of the flame. The attendants are among a group of 11 young Aboriginals chosen to protect the flame as it travels across Canada.

Also present for the ceremony were: Renata Wielgosz, Canada's ambassador to Greece, Government of Canada's Minister of State (Sport) Gary Lunn, deputy premier of British Columbia Colin Hansen, Mary McNeil, BC's Minister of State for the Olympics, and British Columbia mayors: Gregor Robertson (Vancouver), Ken Melamed (Whistler), Ross Forrest (Lake Cowichan), Ken McRae (Port Alberni), and Carol Kulesha (Queen Charlotte).

"The growing excitement in communities across our country is remarkable with the Olympic Flame just hours away from its official Canadian welcome and the start of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay," said Lunn. "This flame, as entrusted to us by the people of Greece, will spread goodwill and pride as it connects Canadians from coast to coast to coast in celebration of the 2010 Winter Games."

McNeil, BC's Minister of State for the Olympics, added: "After years of planning, the day the Olympic Flame arrives in British Columbia is now less than 24 hours away! We're planning a welcoming celebration like no other and the whole country is invited to count down the days with us through the torch relay until the flame arrives in Vancouver to light the Olympic Cauldron at the official opening of the 2010 Winter Games."

The Olympic Flame will touch down in Canada at approximately 7:15 am (Pacific Time) on Friday, October 30. It will be carried via a trio of traditional First Nations canoes for the start of the public welcoming ceremony in front of an expected crowd of thousands in Victoria, BC, at 9:30 am. The first torchbearer - whose name remains a closely guarded secret - will kick-off the official start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay after leaving the grounds of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.

On Day 1 of the relay, the flame will visit 11 communities and places of interest in the Capital Regional District of the province and be carried by 147 torchbearers over 90 kilometres on foot, bike and boat.

"Forty-five-thousand kilometres and 106 days later, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay will end in Vancouver with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron on February 12, 2010," said Robertson, mayor of the Host City for the Games. "Along the way, 12,000 people will have proudly carried the Olympic Flame and brought Canadians and the entire world with them on their journey to our city. Vancouver is ready and waiting to welcome the world."

"The arrival of the torch represents the start of our Olympic season and the culmination of a decades-long Olympic dream for Whistler," said Melamed, mayor of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Host Mountain Resort of the 2010 Winter Games. "The events in Greece and Victoria provide an honourable launch to this remarkable journey and Whistler looks forward to the arrival of the torch and the world in February."

For more information on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay visit www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay.

Daily media highlights, including details on notable torchbearers, images, broadcast quality video and editorial content for each day of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay are available to the media on FLAME, the torch relay digital asset management system. To register for FLAME, visit www.vancouver2010.com/flame, click 'Visit FLAME' and then 'Register now.'

Note to Photo Editors: Photos from the handover ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay in Athens, Greece will be posted to the media centre at www.vancouver2010.com.

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. Visit www.vancouver2010.com.

About Coca-Cola and the Olympic Movement

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 Games, Coca-Cola encourages people to create their own path of "positivity" in everyday life by believing that anything is possible. The Company's sponsorship supports National Olympic Committees in more than 200 countries to help athletes train and compete. The Coca-Cola Company is the exclusive non-alcoholic beverage provider to the Olympic Games through 2020. 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 helping 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. Canada's longest-standing supporter of the Canadian Olympic Team since 1947, RBC continues its sponsorship through the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and is proud to bring the Olympic Spirit to communities across Canada as presenting sponsor of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay. 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 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, 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.

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

For further information: For further information: Media contact: Torch Relay Communications, Tel: (604) 403-9328, E-mail: media@torchrelay.vancouver2010.com

Organization Profile

VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

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