Olympic torch arrives Tuesday morning

  • Nov. 2, 2009 1:00 p.m.

The light will be barely be on the water Tuesday (Nov. 3) by the time the Olympic torch arrives at Skidegate Landing for the most unique leg of its islands journey. Starting at 8:00 am, Skidegate’s chosen torchbearer, 79-year-old Percy Williams, will carry the Olympic flame from around the point to Kaay Llnagaay. He’ll be in the Loo Taas with a host of escort boats alongside – Coast Guard, DFO, RCMP, Ministry of Forests and Gwaii Haanas – says Skidegate Band councillor Rose Russ. Once at the beach, Mr. Williams will carry the torch into the Kaay centre where a torch blessing ceremony will take place, complete with Skidegate children and adult dance groups. All this in 15 minutes, says Ms Russ, one of the organizers of the Skidegate part of the event. “We’re happy and excited to be part of this,” she said. “And happy for Percy and the other torchbearers on Haida Gwaii to be a part of this.” Mr. Williams was the unanimous pick of the Skidegate Band council she said. “He’s lived a very good life like an Olympian. He’s taken care of his body and mind, playing basketball and baseball. He’s very sports minded.” Mr. Williams was overwhelmed to learn that he’d been chosen. “I thought torch bearing was something in a distant foreign land. I didn’t think I would ever get involved,” he said. He’s preparing for the event by walking and going to Tai Chi, as well as searching for appropriate running shoes. Mr. Williams was told he needs all-white sneakers with no logos showing and a red toque to match the uniform they are sending up. As the tide will be low when Loo Taas lands on the beach, he may be the first torch bearer to wear gum boots as well. After the torch leaves Skidegate, the next stop is Queen Charlotte where hot chocolate and muffins will be available at the Visitor Information Centre starting at 9 am. The official ceremony and entertainment is planned between 9:15 am and 10:15 am. Queen Charlotte’s chosen runner, 18-year-old Alan Moore will carry the torch for 300 metres from Rainbows to the Spirit Celebration Square (at the VIC). Mr. Moore says he’s to light the caldron at 9:37 am. Mr. Moore is also excited about his role. “It was a big surprise and honour to be recognized,” he said. “The event itself is less a big thing to me than the honour of being chosen.” Mr. Moore, in his first-year at UVic isn’t worried about practising. “It isn’t very heavy,” he says of the 3.5 pound Olympic symbol. After the lighting ceremony, the torch continues back to Sandspit. Brenna Woodburn from the Sandspit Community office says entertainment, healthy snacks and photo opportunities with the torch will be available between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm at the airport. Celebrations continue in Queen Charlotte after the torch leaves town. The Skidegate adult dance group will lead spectators from the Spirit Square site to the legion for a lunch (from 11am to 1pm) and more entertainment. The Gwaii Singers Choir, Wendy Watts, Elizabeth Inkster, students from the Living and Learning School, members of the Filipino community and Sean and Ricardo will be performing. Then from 5pm to 8pm a dinner will be held at the community hall with the Crabapple Creek Jug Band and Air Kanada performing. A fireworks display takes place at 8 pm. Free shuttle buses are available from Masset at the post office with pick up at 7:15 am, Port at Bayview at 8 am and Tlell at 8:25 am. The bus returns at 1pm with pick ups from the QC Legion Hall. Details on how the torch relay will affect traffic were not available by our deadline. Anneli Rosteski who has been organizing the events in Charlotte said the names of other torch bearers running on the islands will be announced soon by Vanoc.