Two Whistlerites will join eight other Canadians as torchbearers during the Paralympic Games in Beijing.
The 10 Canadians are invited by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG). The torch relay is scheduled to take place between Aug. 28 and Sept. 6, with the Canadian contingent taking part on Sept. 5 or 6. The City of Vancouver will select four torchbearers, and the remaining four will be chosen by the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
"We are all incredibly proud to be co-hosting the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler," said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed. "And the added opportunity to participate in the 2008 Paralympic Torch Relay will help to build even more awareness and excitement around Paralympic sport in our communities and across the country."
The 2008 Paralympic torch relay was originally supposed to travel through Whistler and Vancouver in August, as well as London and Sochi, Russia. Last month, however, BOCOG announced a modified route for the relay that will remain solely in China.
A press release from the International Paralympic Committee stated that the May earthquake that devastated parts of China was the reason for curtailing the torch relay. Keeping the relay in China would show support for the people affected by the earthquake, particularly people with disabilities.
However, the international route of the 2008 Olympic torch relay drew protests in several cities, drawing attention to China’s record in Tibet and on human rights. That may have influenced the decision to curtail the Paralympic torch relay.
The upside is that two Whistlerites will now be going to China. As of July 28, residents of the Sea to Sky corridor can nominate torchbearers at www.whistler.ca/nominate. The process calls for a photo and description, both of which will be displayed to the public.
Candidates have to meet some criteria, including a spirit of generosity and a dedication to community, distinguished contributions to the Olympic or Paralympic cause, extraordinary performance in past Games and support for Beijing as the 2008 host.
The deadline is Aug. 10, and the Sea to Sky Torchbearer Selection Committee will announce a decision four days later.
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan has already been chosen as one of Vancouver’s torchbearers. The Canadian Paralympic Committee said Sullivan was chosen “in recognition of his leadership and the contribution he has made to the Paralympic movement in Canada and for persons with disabilities.” Sullivan, a quadriplegic, has helped develop several pieces of equipment that enable disabled persons to enjoy outdoor sports and recreation.
Vancouver and the Canadian Paralympic Committee will announce their own nomination plans on their official websites.