Canadian heritage on display in Banff

By Rick MacDonnell, SnowSeekers Inc.

As the Olympic flame made its way through the last few legs of its tour through Alberta today, it stopped at Banff's Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the birthplace of the National Parks system in Canada. One hundred and twenty-five years ago, in 1885, Banff became this country's first National Park, and it was right here in this spot.

In 1885, the Hot Spring Reserve was created, and since then it has slowly grown into the large park that is located there today. There are now 42 National Parks across the country, and there are well over 900 National Historic Sites.

"For us, this is where it all started, and for that reason it's a really important place for us," said Amar Athwal, interpretation supervisor for the Cave and Basin.

The Parks Canada crew were really excited to have the Torch pass through their beloved site. Their energy was palpable. "It's amazing for us. Just like the Olympics for Vancouver, this event will live in our history as one of our great events. To have it come to the birthplace of the National Parks system, it's unique for us and very important for us as well.

This park is a part of Canadian heritage. It's been with us for 125 years, and let's hope that its going to be with us for the next 125 years. For that flame to come out here, it shows how important this place is, not only to those people who work here, but to all Canadians."

Truly a proud Canadian, Athwal doesn't like to refer to these Olympic Games as taking place in Western Canada; these are Canada's games, meant for all Canadians.

"I think as Canadians we'd be completely behind the Olympics whether they were in Eastern Canada or Western Canada because this is truly an amazing country no matter where you go.

We're hoping a lot of people come out here from Eastern Canada and watch and cheer on the athletes as we, together, try to break our medal record."

Make sure to catch the Travel Alberta Olympic Torch Relay videos on YouTube at

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