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International Paralympic Torch Relay Canceled


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It's canceled.

International torch relay for Paralympic Games snuffed out

Committee to announce curtailment of scheduled stops in lead-up to Beijing Olympics

Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, June 21, 2008

The first international Paralympics torch relay, which was to have included stops in Vancouver and Whistler in late August a week before the start of the Beijing Games, has been called off.

The Vancouver Sun has learned that the International Paralympic Committee, in conjunction with the Beijing organizing committee, will make the announcement today. The torch was also scheduled to stop in London and Sochi, Russia, site of Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 and 2014.

It is believed security concerns are the primary reason behind the decision to cancel the international portion of the relay.

Kathy Newman, executive director of the B.C. Wheelchair Sports Federation, said she was disappointed to hear there won't be a torch relay that would have included past and current athletes with disabilities.

"It would have brought great awareness," she said.

Paul Henderson, director of Olympic and Paralympic operations for the City of Vancouver, would not confirm the torch relay in Vancouver is history, saying, "We're waiting for Bocog (the Beijing organizing committee) and the IPC to make an announcement."

Henderson did say that he met with Bocog officials in Vancouver on June 6.

"We talked about all aspects around planning of the paralympic torch relay," he said. "We talked about security issues. They had clearly been through a number of security issues around the Olympic torch relay and that was a prime interest for them."

Protests with a focus on China's treatment of Tibet and its support of a Sudanese government ostracized for the crisis in Darfur dogged the Olympic torch relay earlier this spring as it travelled around the world. It did not make a stop in Canada.

In mid-May, Vancouver made public some of the logistics and a preliminary route for the Paralympic torch relay.

The torch was to arrive in Vancouver on the afternoon of Aug. 28. After a three-hour relay and celebration in Whistler the following morning, it was to be flown to Vancouver.

Beginning at 1 p.m., 40 people, a mix of able-bodied and the disabled, were to carry the torch on a four-kilometre route from city hall, across the Cambie Bridge, around BC Place and down Pender Street before ending up at the Carrall Street greenway in Chinatown.

Henderson said the relay seemed like a "fantastic idea for promoting the Paralympics."

He said Vancouver tried to convey to Bocog that it felt any protests surrounding the relay would be minimal.

"In the end, it's an IPC-Bocog decision. Even if we're disappointed, it's up to them to make the decision."

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said he had been given the "heads up" to expect an announcement today.

"If in fact [the relay has been cancelled] that's disappointing," said Melamed, whose community will host the alpine and cross-country events during the 2010 Paralympic Games. "We were excited and thrilled at the idea. We really are enamoured of the concept of profiling the Paralympic Games.

"It's growing in popularity and significance and it needs support rather than opposition."

gkingston@png.canwest.com

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