Thousands of Revelstokians packed onto Mackenzie Avenue to watch 13-year-old Lachlan Hicks light the Olympic Cauldron Tuesday night.
“That was amazing,” he told the cheering crowd, which was estimated at 2,000 people. “I’m lost for words. My eyes were so big. I had no idea. It’s crazy.”
Hicks ran the final leg of the torch relay down Mackenzie Avenue from Victoria Road to a giant stage set up at Second Street.
He held the flame high as he passed through a row of lanterns created by local students just for the relay.
The lighting of the flame was the climax of an evening of events held on Mackenzie Avenue to celebrate the passing of the Olympic Torch that was passing through Revelstoke on its way to the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The entire community was involved in the festivities, which started at 4 p.m. There was a snow sculpture contest which pitted each elementary school against each other in a friendly competition.
The sculptures they came up with included a likeness of one of the Olympic mascots, a cauldron, and a person carrying the Olympic flame. They were all excited to see the flame come to Revelstoke.
Parks Canada put together a display to celebrate the history of ski jumping in Revelstoke, while the Revelstoke Museum brought out some of its historic photos of the Nels Nelsen ski jump.
“We’re proud of the jump and glad to have people out today,” said Parks Canada employee Masato Matsushita, who was dressed as an old-time paper boy for the occassion.
The Revelstoke Secondary School band, Sister Girl, the Revelstoke Community Choir, and members of the Okanagan Indian Band all performed for the crowd on a giant stage that was assembled specifically for the event.
Kootenay-Columbia MP Jim Abbott and Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald made the trip to Revelstoke for the night.
“It’s just a wonderful evening. You’re going to have the whole community here,” said Macdonald.
“It’s a community with a rich history in terms of winter sports going back to ski jumping tme right up to the present. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Of course, all the events were just a lead up to the torch relay, which included numerous locals.
Sarah Newton, a former ski racer and director of the North Columbia Environmental Society, it was her second carrying the Olympic Torch, having done so previously in Calgary in 1988.
“I like amateur sport and all it embodies so its lovely to do that in my hometown,” she said.
Brittany Evans, 15, led off the relay at the gateway to Revelstoke on Victoria Road. She took her torch and ran it through the railyway underpass before handing it off to Carl Rankin.
The relay went along Wilson Street, down Wilson, Third and Fourth streets, up Robson Avenue, and along Victoria Road to Mackenzie avenue, where former Olympic ski jumper and long-time Revelstokian John McInnes lit the torch being held by Lachlan Hicks while fireworks illuminated the sky behind them.
“It was exciting. It wasn’t that far but it was lots of fun,” said McInnes. “There were so many people out.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life in Revelstoke.”
Hicks then took the flame up Mackenzie, with thousands of people cheering him on. He ran up on stage and lit the cauldron.
“He is an outstanding athlete who is a leader amongst his peers and has already begun to give back to his school and ihs community through volunteer activities,” said the announcer as Hicks took the stage. “He already displays many of the qualities required to become a future Olympic athlete.”
As the flame burned brightly on stage, Mayor David Raven was presented with a special plaque and later given a torch to keep in Revelstoke.
“What a party!” said Raven. “It’s just fantastic to stand here and look at 2,000 people stretched down two blocks.
“This is an unbelievable time for Revelstoke itself and the whole Olympic movement.”
It was Hicks who was the star of the night. He was beaming and his eyes wide open as he walked off the stage into the lights of the waiting media.
“As soon as I started running it was just adrenaline. It was amazing,” he said about his experience running the torch through the crowd of 2,000 people. “It was great that they were all supportig me with lights everywhere.”
The experience surpassed his expectations.
“I had no idea. At first I thought, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool.’ I didn’t really undertand the meaning of it,” he said. “Now I know. It’s unforgettable.”