British Columbia

Olympic flame heats up Vancouver

The Olympic torch relay ended the penultimate day of its journey within the city of Vancouver for the first time Thursday, less than 24 hours before Friday's opening ceremonies extravaganza.

Speculation heats up on final torchbearer

The Olympic flame ended the day in the city of Vancouver for the first time ever Thursday, with the lighting of a cauldron in Yaletown. ((CBC))

The Olympic torch relay ended the penultimate day of its journey within the city of Vancouver for the first time Thursday, less than 24 hours before Friday's opening ceremonies extravaganza.

Singers Jann Arden, Michael Bublé, U.S. television anchor Matt Lauer, basketball star Steve Nash and Vancouver Canuck hockey legend Trevor Linden were among the torchbearers Thursday.

The final person to carry the flame was community worker Ken Lyotier, who lit a cauldron at the city's Yaletown Live Site, where Games highlights will play on a giant video screen as live musical acts entertain revelers throughout the two weeks of the Olympics.

Lyotier is the founder of United We Can, a non-profit organization that has helped street people in Vancouver since 1995 by providing depots where they can turn in unlimited numbers of refundable bottles and cans.

Friday's torchbearers include California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Walter Gretzky, father of hockey's Wayne Gretzky.

Climax Friday night

The flame finishes its 45,000-kilometre journey Friday night at BC Place stadium when it will be used to light a giant cauldron, marking the climax of the opening ceremonies and the official start of the Games.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says everything is in place for the Games to begin.

"There is incredible energy in the city right now. There's been a real transformation in that energy from the very challenging preparation— years of preparation — that went into these Games," said Robertson on Thursday morning.

"We're now shifting as the athletes arrive and as the torch makes its way into Vancouver into a very, very positive, very excited and exhilarating and vibrant city right now as the Games approach."

"We are ready to host the greatest Games ever … and hopefully the goldest Games ever for Canada on home soil," he said.

Singer Jann Arden said carrying the Olympic torch was an overwhelming experience. ((CBC))

"Our No. 1 goal is to be exceptional hosts and to ensure that the athletes have a fantastic experience here, and that all the visitors who come to Vancouver and the billions who watch these Games on TV are impressed, are inspired and are intrigued by what takes place here in Vancouver," he said.

On Thursday morning, the torch resumed its 106-day journey in the northeastern Metro Vancouver community of Belcarra. During the day, it was set to travel through Anmore, Coquitlam, Burnaby, the Musqueam Reserve and the University of British Columbia before arriving in Yaletown.

The Great One mute about role

Meanwhile, the Olympic buzz around Vancouver continues to grow as more and more international athletes are spotted on the streets in their team outfits and dozens of international, provincial and corporate pavilions prepare to welcome the growing crowds. 

Anticipation about who will carry the torch into the opening ceremonies is reaching fever pitch, with much speculation that hockey legend Wayne Gretzky will light the cauldron in BC Place.

Wayne Gretzky and Team Canada came fourth at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. ((Todd Washaw/Getty Images))

The Great One was in Vancouver on Wednesday, but avoided taking any questions from reporters at his only media event. Gretzky is no stranger to Olympic events — he's been involved in the last three Winter Games, including winning gold at Salt Lake City as the executive director of the men's hockey team.

On Thursday night, Prime Minister Steven Harper, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean and dozens of high-profile athletes officially welcomed the Canadian team to the Olympic Village on the shore of False Creek.

The Canadian flag was hoisted at the ceremony, which was hosted by Canadian actress Sandra Oh, while the honorary mayors of the Olympic village, Rick Hansen and former rower Tricia Smith, were also on hand.