Winnipeg fans flame

Torch-bearers elated to help unite country for Olys

By ROSS ROMANIUK, WINNIPEG SUN


The Esplanade Riel bridge was bathed in lights as the torch arrived, later carried along Memorial Blvd. by Errol McKay. (Winnipeg Sun photo)


It took only a small fire last night to light up Winnipeg's Olympic spirits.

Several hundred Olympic torch-watchers lined Provencher Boulevard in the early evening as Winnipeg's relay headed west toward Esplanade Riel, which was bathed in multi-coloured light for the event.

"It's pretty exciting," said Ian Pitre, 28, one of the torch-bearers who ran with the flame through his native St. Boniface, as his parents Larry and Laurel Pitre and siblings looked on. "It's great to see my friends and family come out. That was probably the best part for me."

On the Esplanade footbridge, Roland Blouin and wife Colleen were in full Games glory.

"It was awesome. We saw them transfer the flame," said Roland, who had stood on a bench near the span to take in the spectacle.

"I'm very proud to be Canadian, and I'm excited about the Games," added Colleen Blouin. "It's the whole spirit of the Games. I still believe in the idea that it's bringing people together, countries together."

Shortly after at The Forks, friends Beth Panchuk and Maureen Matthews watched with about 3,000 others as youngster Noah Palansky -- the city's official torch-bearer -- ran the Olympic flame onto a stage occupied by Mayor Sam Katz, Premier Greg Selinger and Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, following several musical acts that had further warmed up the crowd.

"The flame is something drawing the whole country together," said Bill Somers, recalling Winnipeg's part in Canada's lead-up to the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. "I remember watching the '88 torch relay. It's kind of neat to see it again."

Pitre's parents, Larry and Laurel Pitre, couldn't contain their excitement at seeing their son carry the torch.

"We're more than proud. This is amazing," Laurel said. "I could cry, I'm so happy."

Possibly the most excitement, however, was experienced by Kaitlan Taylor of Riverton, who ran the Games torch through the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street.

"There were so many people there," she said at The Forks while getting her photograph taken with anyone who asked.

"It was a sense of euphoria."

ross.romaniuk@sunmedia.ca

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