Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was a huge fan of short distance running and did so at every opportunity. I also took part in many local Ontario run events, from the Brookes Spring Runoff in High Park, Toronto a couple of times, to the ROM- 24 Hr. Relay Race at Queens Park Circle, to the Nike Night Crawler, and the CNIB run for the Blind, where you ran with a visually impaired person along the Toronto Water Front’s Martin Goodman Trail.
In 1976 a high school acquaintance at the time was one of two runners selected to light the Olympic Cauldron at the Montreal Summer Olympics. This really peaked my interest, so when Calgary was selected to host the 1988 Winter Olympics, and Petro Canada decided to sponsor the Cross Canada Olympic Torch Relay Race and open it up to all Canadians, I jumped at the opportunity to summit an entry. My wife and I submitted 8 entries each, never really believing we would ever be selected. Many other Canadians had the same idea, with approximately 6.6 million submissions. I was fortunate enough to be selected from 6,280 entries including many handpicked selections like Barbara Ann Scott the 1948 Canadian Olympic Figure Skating Champion; Ken Read former Crazy Canuck Down Hill Ski Racer; The Man in Motion himself, Rick Hanson, the daughter of former 1964 Canadian Olympic Runner Silver medalist Bill Crothers, Andrea. Andrea and the son of CTV’s anchor, Ken Shaw, were part of my group.
It was determined that day 36 of the Olympic Torch run, December 22, 1987, and our part would take place along a stretch of Highway 7 through Unionville, Ontario, where I received on stage the Olympic Torch as part of an outdoor ceremony at the Markham Theatre. I proceeded west along Highway 7, and due to some miscalculations, actually ran for 1.9 km until I passed off the Torch to the next runner.
From receiving the selection notice to the built up excitement as the time approached, to actually attending and receiving our “official 1988 Olympic Gore-Tex track suits and toques”, the whole experience was amazing and a bit overwhelming. As most could imagine, while the day was long in preparations and organization leading up to our big day, it went by in a flash. From being on stage and receiving the Torch from a young lady named Deanna, to running down the stairs and through the large crowds, including my family, to being escorted out by the O.P.P. onto Highway 7, where the road was lined with well-wishers and spectators, all wanting to be part of the celebration and experience…it was truly an amazing experience for me.
In the days to follow, and proud to have been part of the history making Torch run, I attended many other events in Southern Ontario and connected with other participants. I even had the opportunity to meet Ken Reed and Jungle Jim Hunter the original Crazy Canuck downhill racer at a ceremony in Niagara Falls where thousands of people attended a nighttime celebration and ceremony. From a cold December night in 1987 to this day, just shy of 30 years ago, I still have that “Red 1988 Olympic track suit and toque” as a memory of one of the most special opportunities as a Canadian I ever had the chance and privilege to be part of…and it’s an experience I will never forget!
Wayne F – Triovest