Olympic torch relay raises questions of VANOC partnership

When it gave the Vancouver Olympics committee $166,667 on September 12, the Yukon government was promised three things — a Yukon Day at the…

When it gave the Vancouver Olympics committee $166,667 on September 12, the Yukon government was promised three things — a Yukon Day at the Games, the privilege of participating at the Cultural Olympiad and influence over the route of the torch relay through the territory.

However, the torch relay has gone off the course of the original agreement with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Contrary to earlier statements, the Yukon government had no involvement with the selection of the route.

“That’s part of the VANOC mandate,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Elaine Taylor. “They’re the ones who actually make the decisions. They certainly look at the respective communities and I guess that (question) would be best directed to VANOC.

“But they ultimately make the decisions on where the route goes.”

(The Yukon was never in danger of being excluded from the torch relay, since the Vancouver Organizing Committee announced last January that all territories and provinces would participate, many months before the territory’s purchase of the partnership.)

Still, Taylor has great confidence that the territory’s relationship with the Vancouver Organizing Committee, although hierarchical, will reap rewards.

“It enables Yukon’s participation on a number of different fronts,” said Taylor. “By being able to participate in, certainly, the Olympic torch relay, we will be providing assistance and certainly the necessary support to our respective communities to ensure that they have great celebrations.

“We’ll be working with VANOC on that front.”

Yukon Day at the Olympics will take place February 20 and the Yukon is working with the other territories in planning their Days, said Taylor.

“We want to collaborate and make sure we have the biggest return on our investment by having the three of us working together,” she said.

Just before the torch relay flag was raised Friday afternoon in front of city hall, acting mayor Florence Roberts showed her enthusiasm over the official announcement of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics torch relay route, which includes a lengthy tour of the territory.

“It is exciting to think that in less than a year our community will be gathered at Shipyards Park as we celebrate and wait for the torch’s arrival,” said Roberts, evoking November 3, 2009, when the treasured flame will enter Whitehorse.

“This is an opportune time for our children to learn what the journey to 2010 Olympics means for these inspiring athletes and how that translates into everyday life,” she said.

This will not be the first time that Whitehorse is the scene for the torch relay, having hosted the sacred flame while it was on its way to Calgary in 1988, but it will be a historical event nonetheless.

Next year’s relay will be the longest in the Games’ lengthy history, stretching a total of 45,000 kilometres. During its journey, the torch will be passed between 12,000 bearers throughout 1,000 communities.

The torch will enter the territory from the north, passing through Old Crow, Dawson City and, eventually, Whitehorse.

Those who wish to apply to become a torch bearer can fill out an application online at rbc.com/carrythetorch, iCoke.ca or sogoactive.com.

“They have a selection committee and all the entries will be reviewed and it’s just going to be wonderful,” said Roberts. “Everybody’s got a chance.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com