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Olympic and Paralympic flags fly in tandem

Flags symbol of partnership and spirit

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It was a historic moment for Whistler and the world when Paralympians and community members raised both the Olympic and Paralympic flags over the resort recently.

"The flags are a symbol of excitement over the years to come," said sit-skier Brad Lennea, who has just returned from competing at the 2006 Paralympics in Torino.

"People can identify with them. I think it is really important to have both flags fly here at the same time."

Normally the Olympic flag only flies in the host city but it was decided to fly one in Whistler as recognition of its status as Mountain Host for the 2010 Winter Games.

It also symbolizes the tight partnership between Vancouver and Whistler said Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan who was on hand for the March 24 ceremony.

"It was an incredible experience to be (in Italy) and feel the energy," he said. "It makes me feel quite excited that this community and Vancouver will both, in four years time, be experiencing this and working together to achieve it."

The Paralympic flag was officially handed to Sullivan and Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed in Torino at the end of the closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games March 19.

"I don’t think Whistler ever imagined it would have the privilege of flying both flags here so it is truly fantastic," said Melamed.

As the Paralympic flag rose into the sky outside the Vancouver 2010 Information Centre Melamed said: "We are so very proud today to raise this flag as a symbol to all of the Paralympian spirit of rising above human frailties and perceived limitations with courage perseverance, enthusiasm, and excellence.

"I returned from the Paralympic Games in Italy both excited and humbled by what I experienced, indeed changed. The thrill of sport, the inspiration of athletic endeavour, the heartbreak and elation of world class competition, it is all there in the Paralympic Games and more, and it is coming here in four years time."

Both mayors believe that Whistler, which will be the sole host of the Paralympics, will produce an outstanding Games thanks to its long history of involvement with sport for the disabled and its accessibility.

"I come here quite a bit and I find it incredibly accessible," said Sullivan, a quadriplegic since a 1980 skiing accident.

"I am very confident that we can pull it off."

He is even considering heading back onto the slopes to experience for himself the thrill so many disabled skiers enjoy.

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