Thousands cheer Olympic torch on Parliament Hill
Ottawa mayor sorry for English-only celebration
Last Updated: Saturday, December 12, 2009 | 9:20 PM ET
A cheering, flag-waving crowd of 15,000 people, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gathered Saturday night on Parliament Hill to welcome the Olympic torch to the nation's capital and turn on 350,000 Christmas lights.
Harper told the crowd that next year "is going to be a nation-defining year for this great country Canada. Two months from today, the eyes of the world will turn to Canada as we host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games."
Also among the dignitaries on hand was B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who said the cross-Canada torch relay is energizing all Canadians behind the Games.
"That torch is a golden thread that pulls our country together and unites us behind our commitment to our athletes."
Former hockey star Joe Juneau, who won an Olympic hockey medal in the 1992 Games in Albertville, France carried the torch onto the Hill — the flame's latest stop in a 45,000-kilometre journey.
The torch crossed over the Alexandra Bridge from Gatineau, Que., shortly after noon ET. It arrived at Rideau Hall, the residence of Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, around 1 p.m., carried up the steps by Liberal Senator and retired general Romeo Dallaire.
For Canada, Dallaire said the torch relay "is a great sign of serenity and unity" in a country that has learned how to get along despite linguistic and ethnic tensions, he told The Canadian Press.
The flame continued to Ottawa City Hall, where hundreds of people were gathered.
Bells rang and Canadian flags fluttered amid a cheering crowd as University of Ottawa student Melissa Brunet, 19, walked up a red carpet and lit a cauldron. She was chosen as the city's official cauldron lighter after being named Ottawa's 2009 citizen of the year for her community volunteer work.Ottawa's official cauldron lighter, Melissa Brunet, 19, was named the city's 2009 citizen of the year for her community volunteer work. (CBC)
"I am so proud," Mayor Larry O'Brien said as the flame continued through Ottawa toward Parliament Hill. "It's just one of those moments that will go down in my memory bank as being one of the most exciting moments of being mayor."
People in the crowd said they enjoyed the ceremony outside City Hall, but some francophones said they were a little disappointed that it was in English only.
O'Brien acknowledged that the ceremony probably should have been more bilingual.
'I apologize': Ottawa mayor
"And to the francophones in our community, I apologize," he said. "Certainly, we won't have that happen again."
He said he was surprised by the lack of French, but said the ceremony was only partly organized by the city, while part of it was organized by other groups.
Suzanne Reeves, director of communications for the Olympic flame relay, told CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada that the city hall celebration was created by the local community, as it is during other stops. Similar events in Quebec were mainly in French, she said.
Relay organizers were more involved in planning the big ceremony at Parliament Hill for Saturday night, she said beforehand, adding that it would be in both official languages.
While more than 100 protesters met the torch in Old Montreal this week, only a few demonstrators showed up at Ottawa City Hall. They say many sites for the 2010 Winter Games — which are being held in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. — are on land stolen from aboriginal people.
Parliament Hill celebrations were also to include a choir performance of Ottawa's official celebration theme song by composer Gregory Charles and a performance by Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane.
The illumination of thousands of coloured Christmas lights on Parliament Hill accompanied the flaming of the cauldron.
The Olympic torch will be run through more than 1,000 communities and other places of interest over more than 100 days during leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)The Olympic torch is visiting more than 1,000 communities and other places of interest leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Saturday was the 44th day of the 106-day relay.
The relay will head to Pembroke, Ont., on Sunday and to Cornwall and Kingston on Monday via Ottawa, where more road closures were expected Monday morning.
The torch made a brief appearance in Ottawa on Thursday when Canadian figure-skating legend Barbara Ann Scott, 81, carried it into the House of Commons during a side trip from Montreal. The Ottawa native was the first Canadian figure skater to win a gold medal, at the St. Moritz Olympics in Switzerland in 1948, when she was just 19.With files from The Canadian Press
Latest Ottawa News Headlines
- 1st-degree murder charge laid in Michael Wassill death
- A 20-year-old Ottawa man is once again facing an upgraded murder charge in the death of Michael Wassill, 21, who was stabbed in the neck while his family said he was protecting a friend. more »
- New trial in fatal Rideau Centre hit-and-run
- The Ontario Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial in the case of Vlad Precup, who was originally sentenced to two years less a day in June 2011 for the hit-and-run death of a homeless man. more »
- Woman's basement sprayed with raw sewage
- An Ottawa homeowner says she got little help after city workers flooded her basement with raw sewage last week. more »
- Friend's favour turns into 2 bad breaks
- A man suffered serious fractures to both legs after he fell seven metres off a roof in Russell, just south of Ottawa, while helping his friend re-shingle the roof. more »
Top News Headlines
- Obesity now recognized as a disease
- The American Medical Association has voted to recognize obesity as a disease, while doctors in Canada say they also treat it as such. more »
- Neil Macdonald: Washington's obsession with leakers
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are just the most prominent targets in an all-out legal and propaganda campaign that America's security apparatus is mounting against leakers everywhere, Neil Macdonald writes. more »
- Caregiving dads stigmatized at work suggests UofT study
- Fathers who participate in child rearing and housework are likely to be labeled slackers and "failed men" at work, according to a study spearheaded by researchers at the University of Toronto and Long Island University. Are active dads the norm at your workplace? more »
- Dozens of children seized from Manitoba Mennonite community
- Child welfare authorities have removed all but one child from a small Mennonite community in rural Manitoba. more »
- Friend's favour turns into 2 bad broken legs
- Minor hockey players reflect on career-ending concussions
- Gatineau promotes itself with free shuttle service
- Tory MP fined $155 for driving through Hill security stop
- Mike Fisher, Carrie Underwood selling Ottawa dream home
- Bob Rae quits as MP in 'very emotional' decision
- Canadian border agents being impersonated in phone scam
- Sharlene Bosma speaks out about husband's murder
- The Spartan Race in 90 seconds