Olympic Torch connecting athletes and fans

By Rick MacDonnell, SnowSeekers Inc.

For Jim Richards, director of torch relays for VANOC, the Torch's trip through Alberta has been something of a homecoming.

"I've been living abroad for many years, and I thought that getting involved (with the relay) would be a great opportunity to come back to Canada. I've worked with the
Olympics since 1988 in Calgary, and ever since then it's been a big part of my life.
The entire torch relay has been magic, but particularly so here in Alberta. "

Tonight's leg of the Torch relay was in Airdrie, just minutes away from Richards' hometown of Calgary. The close proximity allowed him to reconnect with not only his friends and his family, but the province and culture that raised him.

"Half of Canadian Olympic athletes reside in Alberta, so I can't help but believe that there's a huge connection between their success and their families, friends, relatives, and neighborhoods. There's a feeling and a good that's created as a result of the games, and the result of participation in sport. Albertans truly understand this and it's a huge part of our culture. That, to me, says so much about who we are as Albertans."

All bias aside, Richard's favourite moment of the entire Torch relay thus far took place this morning at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.

"For me, the epitome was when we had the chance to take the Olympic Flame down to the ice where Canada started to build out its heritage (in '88). To share that flame with the athletes that will be representing Canada in three short weeks, to watch their eyes connect to the people in the stands, the message, the Olympic flame, to see them recognize that we were all there to support them ... that was just beautiful. That was the best moment of the entire relay."

When asked for a message he'd like to send to all of Canada's Olympic hopefuls, Richards' said, "Do your best. Give it your all. Don't hold back. Do yourself proud and do your country proud."

Make sure to catch the Travel Alberta Olympic Torch Relay videos on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/TravelAlbertaCanada

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