British Columbia

Flame on: Vancouver Olympics torch relay launched 10 years ago

As table setter for the big meal that was the Vancouver Olympics, the torch relay did its job. Over 106 days it carried the Olympic flame 45,000 kilometres to 1,000 communities in every corner of the country, before arriving at B.C. Place to ignite the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Feb. 12, 2010.

Relay set the stage for the Games by travelling to 1,000 communities in every corner of Canada

Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky holding the Vancouver Olympic torch in 2010. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

As CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, John Furlong was front and centre for every major milestone of the $7-billion extravaganza, except perhaps when he literally had to take a backseat to the six lanterns carrying the sacred Olympic flame from Athens to Canada.

"There were six business class seats — if you can call them that on a military plane — and the lanterns sat strapped into all six. They had a far better seat than I did," he said with a laugh.

Those lanterns lit the torches that were the centrepiece of the 2010 Olympic torch relay, which started exactly 10 years ago today in Victoria.

As table setter for the big meal that was the Vancouver Olympics, the torch relay did its job.

Over 106 days it carried the Olympic flame 45,000 kilometres to 1,000 communities in every corner of the country, before arriving at B.C. Place to ignite the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Feb. 12, 2010.

One of six lanterns that flew business class from Athens to Victoria in 2009 to to deliver the Olympic flame for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic torch relay. (Josh Su/Team Canada)

Furlong says he listened to the advice of Frank King, architect of the 1988 Calgary Olympics, and made sure there was no skimping on the relay.

"He said, 'John, if I had it over, I would have taken the Olympic flame everywhere,'" said Furlong. "So the idea was, if we took the flame to every front door, then Canadians would embrace the Games and view them as something they themselves were participating in.

"We had huge arguments inside of VANOC [the games' organizing committee] in trying to meet the standard we had set," he said.

The countdown is now on for the 10-year anniversary party of the Vancouver Olympics, being planned for Feb. 22 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

VANOC CEO and President John Furlong (centre) lights the community cauldron in Victoria in October 2009 as Darlene Poole, widow of Jack Poole, a key organizer, looks on along with then-Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson (left), then-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell (right) and then-prime minister Stephen Harper (second from right). (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Furlong says the homecoming-slash-reunion will be a public celebration and fundraiser for the next generation of B.C. athletes. More details will be released as the date draws closer.

"It will be a chance to go back, rekindle and enjoy what took place in Vancouver, and celebrate how how it all came together," he said. 

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