FROM HAND TO HAND, ACROSS THIS GREAT LAND

THE OLYMPIC TORCH TRAVELS VIA SNOWMOBILE NEAR SAULT STE MARIE, ONT., JANUARY 9, 1988.

THE OLYMPIC TORCH TRAVELS VIA SNOWMOBILE NEAR SAULT STE MARIE, ONT., JANUARY 9, 1988.

The heavy police presence counteracting threats of terrorism that are a part of the Sochi Olympic Torch Relay are lightyears away from the laid-back, joyful experience I had 24 years ago.

I’m not even sure there was any security – beside traffic and crowd control – for the 1988 relay. I  spent two days covering the event in Southern Ontario for the Windsor Star and then joined the photo crew for Share the Flame, The Official Book of the 1988 Olympic Torch Relay on New Year’s Day, for a 12-day adventure that ended in Thunder Bay.

What a ride it was. Windsor, Chatham, London, Kitchener, Barrie, then north through Huntsville to Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie then west over Lake Superior to The Lakehead. I worked with magazine photographer Greg Stott of Toronto, alternating between coverage of the relay, often from the photo deck on the back of a camper truck and behind-the-scenes portraits of torch bearers.

I remember driving north out of The Sault in a blizzard and enduring the bitter cold in Thunder Bay. The days were short, the sun clung to the southern horizon. The light was beautiful, giving pictures that golden blue tonality. I had the time of my life.

I photographed many fascinating people in interesting locations: A torch bearer posed in the nickel smelter facility in Sudbury, a First Nations teenager wearing moose-hide mitts his mother had made, the grieving brother of a young torchbearer who drowned before he could carry the torch, and a Thunder Bay physician (at the Terry Fox memorial just east of the city) who had lost his wife to cancer.

But mostly I photographed scores of jubilant torch bearers wearing bright red uniforms. They were universally happy to carry the torch and take part in this historic event. The procession stopped several times a day for a brief ceremony. I found these hard to photograph through my tears. Oh Canada got me every time.

I hope that sanity will prevail and keep the torchbearers safe so that they can enjoy the experience as much as I and the 1988 torchbearers did.

WEARING MOOSE HIDE MITTS, JIM CADA JR. CARRIES THE TORCH NEAR BLIND RIVER, ONT.

WEARING MOOSE HIDE MITTS, JIM CADA JR. CARRIES THE TORCH NEAR BLIND RIVER, ONT.

A BOY SKATES ON A FROZEN POND IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO.

A BOY SKATES ON A FROZEN POND IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO.

A TORCHBEARER CARRIES THE OLYMPIC TORCH INTO HUNTSVILLE, ONT.

A TORCHBEARER CARRIES THE OLYMPIC TORCH INTO HUNTSVILLE, ONT.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “FROM HAND TO HAND, ACROSS THIS GREAT LAND

  1. Thanks for sharing the Olympic fever and Canadian pride Grant and of course, the beautiful photos. I found myself remembering the torch run through Toronto on the way to Vancouver. I got to hold the torch as we hosted a stop and torch hand over at SickKids to one of our staff. A thrill for me, the staff and especially the kids and their families! Here’s to our athletes!!

  2. I remember the “bitter cold in Thunder Bay” watching Sharon have her turn carrying the torch! Thanks for sharing an enjoyable and much more simple Olympic scene than we are seeing now.

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