Hopefuls gather for torch results | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hopefuls gather for torch results

Susan Wood

The birth of a baby, winning the Nobel Peace Prize – few moments in life embody our purest human existence like carrying the Olympic torch.

Based on their inspirational essays, 40 runners to be selected from the Lake Tahoe Basin have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in January among 11,500 torchbearers from across the nation to mark the start of the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Twenty will specifically be tapped from South Lake Tahoe.

Today on the Heavenly Gondola observation deck, business and civic leaders will release details regarding the nationwide call for torchbearers and the Olympic symbol’s overnight stay and celebratory bash Jan. 20 at the South Shore.

Half a world away, the symbol of world unity and human expression will be ignited by the sun’s rays in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games over a century ago and the host city for the event in 2004.

The U.S. relay – its first time touching Alaskan soil – will begin on Dec. 4, 2001 in Atlanta, the last American host site in 1996. The Olympic flame will cover 13,500 miles from coast to coast, until it arrives in the Utah city for the Opening Ceremonies Feb. 8, 2002.

Along the 65-day, 46-state tour, the 3-pound torch measuring 33 inches long will make its way from Sacramento to the Games’ 1960 host city Squaw Valley before heading northeast over the North Shore and around the lake to Stateline south by car. This is one of several modes of transit, along with boat, plane, train, dog sled, horse-drawn sleigh, snowmobile, ice skater, prairie schooner and human power.

The running portion here will kick off at Kahle Park.

To those who have done it on foot like Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathleen Farrell, the pinnacle two-tenths of a mile she ran on July 16,1984 even surpasses the time Cary Grant kissed her hand at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles nine years before.

“The expression on my face (in the Tahoe Daily Tribune) says it all,” said Farrell, who kept the uniform and commemorative torch from the relay that led to the start of the L.A. Games. “I’m not the type to be star struck, but I would have to say, it was one of the finest moments in my life.”

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee, along with major sponsors Coca-Cola Co. and Chevrolet Motor Division, are issuing a call for nominations for torchbearers March 1.

U.S. cyclist and three-time Olympian Lance Armstrong, who overcame cancer to win the Tour de France twice, has been tagged as Coca-Cola’s Olympic Torch Relay team leader. Armstrong, who will carry the torch in his hometown of Austin, Tex., will nominate the inspirational figure in his life – his mother.

Nominations for Olympic torchbearers require a 50- to 100-word essay asking applicants to describe how their candidates meet one or more of the following criteria:

– Inspire others to greater achievement.

– Have been a source of inspiration for his or her community.

– Embody the inspirational spirit of the Olympic movement.

– Motivate others by encountering and overcoming adversity.

Applications will be available this Thursday online at http://www.coca-cola.com, http://www.chevy.com or http://www.saltlake2002.com, along with 4,300 Chevy dealerships and other participating locations.

In South Lake Tahoe, forms will be on hand at city offices, chamber offices and the public library, said city task force Chairman Fred Mercado, who works in the City Attorney’s Office.

“To a lot of people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to be this close to it,” said Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Director Terry LeBan, a key local organizer.

Out of all eligible entries received by May 7, torchbearers will be chosen from three committees and announced in August and September.

“The torchbearer selection process will go to the heart of the Games theme. There is a fire, a spirit that burns in all of us, and we are looking for the Olympian in everyone,” Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney said.

Among 115 community groups the SLOC is working closely with, the city’s task force is proposing a three-day event that pulls out all the stops. It will more than likely involve a party with a large sound stage, a tie-in with the city’s proposed ice rink and a community-type event that may include a dog sled race, cross country ski race or a polar bear swim in the lake.

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