ugg slippers schuh Spirited crowd cheers on Olympic flame in Ontario hamlet
Spirited crowd cheers on Olympic flame in Ontario hamletPeter Kuitenbrouwer, Newmarket community torchbearer Clare Kowaltschuk carries the Olympic torch into the community wide celebration at the Magna Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, Friday morning, December 18, 2009.
Aaron LynettSHARON, Ont. Mason and Grace Laumann may not realize it yet, but they have added a second familial connection to the Olympics.
The nephew and niece of Olympic gold medal rower Silken Laumann, the pair ages two and four on Friday witnessed the Olympic torch pass by in the historic Ontario hamlet of Sharon, part of East Gwillimbury.
The two sat on bales of straw among thousands at a frigid torch party with their grandmother, Marion Buchanan, a big booster of the spirit of the Games.
“This is bringing together everybody,” their grandmother said. “Look at this torch run. How long is it? And look at the crowds who come out. We are not hyphenated Canadians, like Greek Canadians or French Canadians. We are Canadians.”
The kids are getting red Olympic mittens for Christmas, the kind that everyone is wearing in the leadup to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
But since those mittens are wrapped and under the tree, Mason on Friday wore olive mittens, and Grace wore pink, both pairs knitted by Buchanan. gathered in an outpouring of chest thumping patriotism that contrasted with the protests that had met the flame a day earlier in Toronto.
“It’s a typical Canadian hometown,” said Shanon Doner, a mother of two. “Hockey rules a lot of things.”
The crowd of about 3,000 gathered next to the Sharon Temple, a white cubist structure built here by devout carpenters in 1825.
Among those in red mittens was Peter Van Loan, the local MP and federal minister of public safety.
After speaking briefly to the crowd, Van Loan stood chatting with James Young, the mayor, when suddenly a huge hot air balloon emblazoned with the logo of Re/Max rose from behind the stage.
“VANOC is going to freak out when they see that,” the minister predicted, noting that only Royal Bank, McDonald’s and Coca Cola signs are allowed at the torch run. Asked how he would deal with the balloon, the minister shook his head. “It’s not a public security issue,” he said.
On stage, East Gwillimbury Eagles hockey players performed a kind of rhythmic tribal hockey dance, where the kids in sequence dropped their sticks on the stage, and then a referee picked them from the pile and handed them back, alternating sides, while other players drummed their sticks in syncopated thumps.
Under a tent in the snow, the red jacketed Kinsmen of Newmarket and East Gwillimbury struggled to keep up with a crush of demand for free hot chocolate. They kept one 40 litre pot warm on a propane flame while mixing the next pot on a second burner. A stack of two kilo cans of cocoa stood ready for use.
“I’m surprised how many people are here,” said Steve Blakslee, a Kinsman laid off last year by Sobey’s. “Holy smokes, for a Friday?” The crowd waved paper Canadian flags and ate free hot dogs donated by Maple Leaf Foods. The mayor said the town paid $3,000 for the party, with the rest coming from private donors.
South of the hamlet on Leslie Street the crowds gathered, waiting for the torch on sidewalks covered by a few inches of snow. Elizabeth and Steve Williams of Aurora, Ont., wore white Olympic toques they’d saved from the last time the flame went through, in 1988. Brothers Chris and Tim O’Dowd, whose aunt Margaret had just fetched them off a plane from Brisbane, Australia, posed shivering for a photograph with torchbearer Sandy Vassiadis, 33.
Vassiadis, of Montreal, was carrying the torch as a representative of Saputo cheese, official dairy supplier to the 2010 Games. She said her son, who is six, watched the torch relay on the Internet Friday with his schoolmates.
She wore the white windproof suit supplied by the Vancouver Olympic Committee, the ubiquitous red mittens, and Ugg winter boots. Asked about the Uggs, she said, “I didn’t want to slip. I thought it might be icy, like the sidewalks in Montreal.
“They awarded me this spot,” she added. “I was happy to do it anywhere.”
A man in a matching white suit rode up on a mountain bike. He spoke to Vassiadis in French and helped her hold the torch, which a runner then came up and lit for her.
She ran northward, smiling, and passed the torch to runner Ryan Babcock. Babcock’s wife, Mary, ran alongside him as he carried the torch, videotaping his progress, as her 18 month old son, Ryker, bounced along in a baby carrier strapped to her back.
David Steeper, dressed in a red track suit, ran alongside. “I was on the Canadian Olympic gymnastics team in 1980, so I was part of the boycott (of the Moscow Games that year),” he said. “So, this is my Olympic moment.”
At last the flame arrived in Sharon, where the crowd had swelled to perhaps 5,000, all craning for a look, while boys on stage chanted “Let’s go, Canada, let’s go!”
Everyone sang O Canada, the flame moved north, and the crowd filtered away to warm up. The torch travels Saturday from Brampton through Toronto, Mississauga and Oakville to finish the day in Hamilton.