I’m a jogger. Even admitting that in an organisation like London 2012 is something I do with trepidation. You see, we have Olympic and Paralympic medallists in the team. There are folk who casually take on a triathlon course before coming to work in the morning. We have people who run deserts and one who has rowed across the Atlantic. My jogging is the most dilettante form of weekend ambling, and certainly doesn’t justify the term 'running'.
However, ever since joining LOCOG a couple of years back I’ve harboured the secret ambition to go running with Seb Coe.
This morning at 7am, just as the sun was coming up here in Vancouver, it happened.
There was a modest course of just 300 metres in Stanley Park, along the spectacular waterfront overlooking the city’s downtown district. To be honest, it wasn’t just me and Seb. There were thousands of other joggers, spectators and more of the world’s media than you could shake a satellite truck at. And even Arnold Schwarzenegger got in on the act…
This was the final day of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Torch Relay. Seb was chosen to help bring the torch on its triumphant arrival in the City of Vancouver after 106 days, and more than 45,000 kilometres, around Canada. Arnie was running the leg before Seb and their handover, or 'torch kiss' as it's known, was such a media magnet that the relay was almost brought to a halt.
Today is the last day of an Olympic Torch Relay before London’s torch will be lit in Olympia in the spring of 2012. So a small group of the London2012 Ceremonies team is out here to learn as much as we can from the Vancouver Relay. Our Torch Producer, Deborah Hale, has spent the last three days working the kind of 18-hour days that has become a punishing norm for many of the Vancouver team over these last few months.
If any evidence of the power of the Olympic Flame were needed, we’ve seen it in spades. I spent an afternoon on one of the advance trucks, run by a commercial partner for the torch, as it toured North Vancouver heading up Grouse Mountain with the torch itself a few hundred metres behind.
Even in tiny communities and on narrow backstreets, the pavements were deep in flag waving, cheering torch fans. Schools emptied out with home made placards and cheerleaders. Old people’s homes braved the cold with rows of senior torchies waving from under rugs. Hoodies and head honchos alike seem able to buy into the simplicity of an Olympic flame and all that it stands for.
The torch bearers are not all global celebrities or Olympic medallists – indeed, the vast majority are extraordinary unsung heroes from ordinary communities around Canada. Their moment of fame with the torch does as much to shine a light on what they’ve achieved as on the enduring power of the Olympic movement.
As I write, Vancouver’s torch has just arrived near the stadium where, later tonight, the Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Games will see the last torch light the Olympic cauldron. And after that last Vancouver Olympic torch is extinguished, the very next one is ours.
And as to that momentous 300 metres this morning…well, I have to admit that Seb still has a very sprightly spring in the step (which meant I couldn’t keep up with him), but I reckon I could have taken Arnie. Although, had I done so, he might have been back…