Shania fires up torch
THE OLYMPICS: Huge crowd greets flame and Twain at Hollinger Park
Posted By CHELSEY ROMAIN THE DAILY PRESS
Posted 2 hours ago
Not even the most frigid temperatures could keep Timmins from showing off its community spirit as the Olympic flame made its way through the city on its way to Vancouver.
Thousands waited in Hollinger Park as country singing superstar Shania Twain made her way on the torch's final 300 metres of the Timmins leg. They all cheered as the precious flame lit the Olympic cauldron on stage.
Officials estimate anywhere between 7,000 and 9,000 people attended the celebration on New Year's Day. Many others lined the torch's route from Porcupine through Timmins.
The crowd erupted as Twain made her way into Hollinger Park toward the stage. She proudly carried the torch and lit the cauldron, before taking a few moments and speaking to the crowd, as her son Eja, looked on, waving from the front of the crowd.
"This is so fantastic, it's pretty overwhelming," Twain said. "I know we could have probably had warmer weather, but in a way it just feels really beautiful to be back up North in the cold.
"I know that sounds crazy, but it wouldn't be Timmins if it wasn't 40 below with the wind chill."
Twain went on to say that the fact that all those people stood out in the crowd in the freezing weather only proves the spirit people from the North have.
She wished luck to all Olympians, and said how happy she was to be back in her hometown.
"I'm honoured," said Twain. "I'm extremely proud and it's a highlight of my life to be able to be here to carry the torch."
When asked how she felt about the Olympics themselves being held in her home country, Twain said that no matter where she has travelled in the world, Canadians are much loved, and that is something Canadians should be proud of.
She also had some words of encouragement for all those out there in Timmins, both young and young at heart.
"I say go for your dreams, never lose hope and hold on to spirit," she said. "Not just of your hometown, although Timmins has a fantastic home spirit, of course it does, and I think I carry that with me everywhere I go.
"But just be yourself and take that with you wherever you go, that's what's most important."
Interactive displays, and entertainment provided by the community, as well as the Vancouver Olympic Committee and sponsors Coca-Cola and RBC, kept the crowd warm, dancing and singing, as they patiently awaited the torch's arrival.
Local celebration committee chairman Timmins Police Service Sgt. Al Richardson said minus a glitch with the stage, organizers were thrilled with how things turned out.
"We're absolutely excited, we had a few technical difficulties to begin the stage was broken when it came across Canada - it's a little too cold for it up here," Richardson said, "This is huge, to be part of the Olympic spirit to have this stop in our community.
"It's once in a lifetime for Timmins, and our citizens, I'm almost speechless."
For one Timmins student, being able to carry the torch, and even receive a hug from Twain, was a moment of a lifetime.
Fifteen-year-old Timmins High and Vocational student Riley Kolisnyk, was able to hand off the torch to Twain at the corner of Algonquin Blvd. and Brunette Rd.
"This is wonderful, amazing, I can't believe it," he said. "I don't know how to explain it. It's emotional."
Riley is a long-distance track runner. He said being able to be a part of the Olympic experience was a great experience.
"It's the best thing ever," said Riley. "It was such an honour."
'A REAL TROOPER'
MP Charlie Angus (NDP - Timmins-James Bay), as well as Mayor Tom Laughren were both a part of the ceremony, and Angus said Timmins is a community that knows the importance of community spirit.
"When you look at a world with so much heartbreak and violence, the Olympic flame reminds us that we can come together to be something more," Angus said. "Here in Timmins, where so many people from so many countries came to build a life, it is a symbol."
Laughren said that the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge taking place at the same time as the torch relay, only further proves what the city is capable of achieving.
"When you see the atmosphere of the torch being carried in, it really makes you reflect on what the Olympics mean not only to the world, but specifically to Canadians and the people in Timmins," Laughren said.
"We're very, very proud, and we're very glad things have worked out."
Laughren's speech was met with roars from the crowd as he mentioned Timmins long ties with the Olympics.
Acknowledging the efforts of Timmins Olympians Laurie and Kathy Kriener, as well as Jason Gervais, Laughren said Timmins is no stranger to the spirit of the Olympics.
Much discussion took place in the community regarding who was chosen to carry the torch on its last leg in Timmins, and Laughren said there was no shortage of people the city could have chosen. However, only one was allowed.
"We wanted to ensure we had a great event and that we had people to come out," said Laughren, who only met the singing sensation for the first time yesterday.
"For Shania to come back to her hometown and do this for us is really remarkable and in this weather we can't thank her enough.
"I have to say she's a real trooper."