The Olympic Flame


November 1st, 2021

It was 12 years ago Saturday – October 30th, 2009 – that the Vancouver 2010 Torch Relay began with the Olympic Flame arriving in Victoria, B.C. – CFB Esquimalt to be precise — from air transport originating in Olympia, Greece. As our curator Jason Beck chronicled last week in “On This Day in BC Sports History” – on Twitter at @jasonbeck82 and @bcsportshall and on our website at — two of Canada’s legendary Olympians began the amazing 15-week journey of the Flame that began in Victoria and ended with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremonies to Vancouver 2010, on February 12th, 2010 at BC Place stadium. Those two Olympians were Catriona LeMay Doan and Simon Whitfield. They were the first two of more than 12,000 torchbearers who helped make Vancouver 2010 more than a spectacular two weeks in British Columbia, but a truly national experience that forever changed our country, especially with respect to the winning attitude and swagger that Canada now brings to Olympic Games; winter and summer.

As someone who had the unique honour of serving as an Olympic Torchbearer — running through Pitt Meadows, B.C. on Tuesday morning, February 9th, 2010 — I can vouch for the community-building capacity of the Olympic Flame and the inspiration it invokes in almost everyone who comes into contact or within sight of it.

More than 1,000 communities across Canada were touched by the Torch Relay in a beautiful final countdown to Vancouver 2010. The streets were lined in a way that we haven’t seen in this country since Terry Fox ran from St. John’s, Nfld. on April 12th, 1980, to Thunder Bay, Ont. on September 1st almost five months later. In the same way that Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope represented nation-building in its simplest form, the Torch Relay did the same and helped set the stage for two weeks of extraordinary achievement by Canadian athletes and teams. Included among them, of course, were many British Columbians.

That is why the weekend’s milestone around the Torch Relay is such a significant one for all of us at the BC Sports Hall of Fame. It reminds us not only of the inspirational power of Olympic athletes, but of how we can work together with others in the BC and Canadian sport systems to optimize that power and bring it to as many British Columbians and Canadians as possible every chance that we get.

We had one chance earlier this year when Tokyo 2020 rolled out in Japan; one year later than originally scheduled but with no less pride and enthusiasm among the Canadian contingent that represented us in one of the world’s largest cities. The impact, for example, of our Canadian Women’s National Team and its gold medal run at Tokyo 2020 is just one of the many touchpoints that affected Canadians from coast-to-coast, including the children who make up the next generation of citizens and leaders defined by the red maple leaf.

We are now just over 90 days away from a second chance less than six months removed from Tokyo 2020. We’ll get that second chance when Canadian athletes – including our men’s and women’s national hockey teams – convene in China for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

The two Games within six months of each other harkens back to the days when the Olympic quadrennial culminated in Winter and Summer Games every four years…in the same year. The last time that happened, it was Albertville, France in February of 1992 and Barcelona, Spain, in August of that year. The Olympic cycle will return to the rotation that has marked the last 28 years when Paris welcomes the world for the 2024 Summer Games and Italy serves as host of the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

That cycle has of course become engrained in the athlete development modelling that was first developed here in British Columbia in the 1990s and is now provides the parameters to long-term athlete development across the country.

The integration of all aspects of athlete development – and sport development for that matter – is one of the reasons why Canada has come such a long way since Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988. Thanks to Own the Podium in particular and sport investment in general, Canada no longer aims to just “show up” at Olympic Games. The mindset is to win, particularly at the Winter Olympics, but also now competing against the best summer athletes and teams in the world.

Canadian Sport Institute Pacific is a big part of that integrated planning, providing as it does the most functionally effective and financially efficient way to have our country’s leading sport scientists and sport medicine practitioners support our athletes and teams. Led by CEO Wendy Pattenden – vice-chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame and chair of our Selection Committee for induction – it is no surprise that British Columbia has become an increasingly important hub for high performance success these past two decades. CSI Pacific works in partnership with its national and provincial sport partners to ensure that all those Canadian Olympians residing or training in British Columbia have the best preparation and support possible.

Another vital cog is the BC Games Society, especially now that it has aligned itself with the long-term athlete development pathway. BC Games Society CEO Alison Noble – like Wendy a member of the Board of Trustees of the BC Sports Hall of Fame – is entirely committed to making the BC Games an important juncture on the way to the Canada Games and international competition beyond.

At the BC Sports Hall of Fame, we aim to bring our story-telling to the fore in as integrated a way as we can, joining with CSI Pacific, the BC Games Society and others such as viaSport, Sport BC and the BC Sport Branch in a strong “team effort” in support of high performance excellence. We will adopt the BC Games zone model for our own programming, volunteer recruitment and hall of fame development, including our work as part of the BC Council of Sports Halls, co-chaired by Scott Ackles and Jim Hughson. We believe that by doing that, we’ll be even more impactful in the way we honour the past and inspire the future in British Columbia.

We’re smart enough to know, as well, that gold medals by our Olympians translate into gold medal stories for the BC Sports Hall of Fame. And the more gold, silver and bronze, the more kids we help inspire to represent Canada and BC in the years to come.

Tom Mayenknecht is the Chair of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. A principal at Emblematica Brand Builders in Vancouver and a nationally-recognized sport business commentator and founder and host of The Sport Market sport business radio show, he is a strong advocate for KidSport, Right To Play and other children’s charities. He is also a member of the Ringette Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and Chair of the Paul Carson Sports Broadcast & Media Awards.