From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
As we celebrate Canada Day each year, we have the chance to showcase our patriotism. Another significant occasion that allows us to show our Canadian pride is during the Olympic Games.
The goal of the Olympics is to unite the world. The Summer and Winter Olympics are held every four years but alternate every two years between the Summer and Winter Games giving us the opportunity to cheer our athletes on to victory every two years. Prior to every Olympics, the world watches the progress of the Olympic flame as it is carried from Athens, Greece to the site of the current Olympic Games in time for the Opening Ceremonies. Many people have to be content with watching the torch relay on television but Sault Ste. Marie has had the privilege of having the Olympic Torch Relay come through our city twice, once was in 1988 when the Olympics was held in Calgary and again in 2010 when it was held in Vancouver.
On January 9th, 1988, which happened to be a Saturday afternoon, a variety of activities were organized by the Lions Club to be held at the Civic Centre to celebrate the Olympic Torch Relay. Some of the games included a snowman-building contest, potato sack racing, a three-legged race, a snowshoe relay, toboggan races and tug of war.
The torch entered Sault Ste. Marie at approximately 5 p.m. and arrived at the Civic Centre at 6:15 p.m. in front of a crowd estimated at 800 people. Some of the torch bearers included Carol Hare, Daniel Lacroix and Mark Kirk. The torch bearers ran in snowy conditions and temperatures of -14 degrees Celsius.
The National Research Council of Canada had designed the Calgary torch and it was manufactured by Wemas Metal Products in Alberta. The torch was designed to be a replica of the Calgary tower and measured 60 cm in length and was constructed out of aluminum and maple.
In 2010, the Olympic Torch made its second trip through Sault Ste. Marie on its way to Vancouver. On January 2, the torch entered a jam-packed Essar Centre. Local resident Timothy Murphy sang “O Canada”, a specially commissioned arrangement by Toronto based musical director Greg Gibson. The event also featured performances by the Algoma Festival Choir, First Nations drumming, Metis fiddle playing with dancing and country singer Tara Oram.
Jessica Tuomela who represented Canada in three Paralympic games in the sport of swimming was the last of nine runners and brought the torch into the Essar Centre. The Vancouver Olympic torch was designed by Bombardier and VANOC and manufactured by Bombardier. It was made of stainless steel, aluminum and plastic and was 94 cm in length. The shape of the torch was inspired by lines of skis in the snow or skates on ice. It also represented the contours of the Canadian landscape and the curves of the relay route. Its large size reflects the size of the Canadian wilderness.
Dr. Roberta Bondar participated in the Olympic Torch Relay in Toronto and graciously donated her torch to the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library Archives.
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.