Preparing for the Torch |

Preparing for the Torch

Susan Wood

Calling all prospective Olympic torchbearers. National and local organizers of the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City hope they can activate the theme, “Light the Fire Within,” in the hopes of getting respondents to carry the symbol of unity, peace and human expression.

Here’s your chance to represent the community of South Lake Tahoe in style when the Olympic flame makes its way to the South Shore Jan. 20 from the 1960 host Squaw Valley on its 46-state, 65-day journey.

Forty South Lake Tahoe residents will be selected from three panels to each carry the torch two-tenths of a mile through town. The specific route has not been released but suggestions have been made that may include a trip up the Heavenly Ski Resort gondola.

Starting tomorrow, applications will be available online at, or, and at 4,300 Chevy dealerships and other participating locations.

In South Lake Tahoe, forms will be on hand at city and chamber offices and the public library.

Self or appointed nominations require a 50- to 100-word essay asking applicants to describe how their candidates inspire or motivate others, to overcome adversity or embody the Olympic spirit.

Torchbearers will be people from all walks of life, and those who inspire every day such as teachers are encouraged to apply. Politicians are not eligible.

Out of all eligible entries received by May 7, torchbearers will be announced by September. There is no charge to run.

Torchbearers may keep their uniforms, which comes in white and includes a hat, gloves, jacket and pants.

“The torch relay is one of the most exciting aspects of the Olympics because it gets the community involved,” said Don Harina, a Coca-Cola representative from the Reno office.

Since 1928, Coke has been a sponsor of the world-renowned event that started over a century ago.

Office Depot has already signed on as an official sponsor.

“It’s quite an honor to have the torch come through South Lake Tahoe,” Councilman Tom Davis said, flanked by a group of business and civic leaders who braved the high winds and cold temperatures Tuesday at the Heavenly gondola midstation deck.

Davis found the timing of the event especially appropriate given the Sierra Nevada town’s evolution.

“There’s more happening in South Lake Tahoe now than we’ve had in the last 35 years,” he said, referring to a surge in redevelopment.

Plenty will be happening while the torch makes an appearance in South Lake Tahoe along its 13,500-mile route that for the first time includes Alaska.

The flame will be ignited by the sun’s rays in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics and host city for the 2004 Games.

Talk of a proposed party during its overnight stay in Tahoe for the 2002 Games may only be outstaged by a possible polar bear swim in the lake that Davis said he’s more than willing to take part in. Details will be released as they become available.

“The running of the Olympic torch through America’s cities and towns has a way of drawing a community together and inspire greatness in all who see it,” Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney said.

To those in the ski industry like Heavenly spokeswoman Monica Bandows, it’s only appropriate to have the representation of the Olympic Games grace the area.

At least a handful of local athletes could potentially compete in Salt Lake City. This includes Alpine skiers Daron Rahlves of Truckee and Jonny Moseley of Tiburon and Marco Sulivan of Tahoe City as well as South Lake Tahoe’s Jonna Mendes, a 1998 Olympic racer, Wisi Betschart and freestyle skiers Travis Ramos, Travis Cabral, Brooke Ballachey and Chris Hernandez.

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