POLITICS

Pan Am Games torch relay will cross Canada, hit 130 Ontario communities

10/01/2014 12:16 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - The torch relay for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games will be a national event, with stops in five Canadian cities as well as more than 100 Ontario communities, organizers said Wednesday.

It will be carried by 3,000 people during its 41-day journey to the Games, and astronaut Chris Hadfield has been named as the first honorary torchbearer.

"What a thrill," Hadfield told a cheering crowd that included Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Olympic athletes and officials from the Games organizing committee.

"It makes me, oh, doubly or triply proud to be one of the representatives of the many people who are going to be carrying the torch."

Stops are planned in Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax and the Greater Vancouver Area, as well as 130 communities in Ontario.

Hadfield noted that his hometown of Sarnia and Milton, where his parents live, are among the places where the torch will go through.

"The inspiration of it is the key," the former commander of the International Space Station said, adding that he is looking forward to May 30 when the relay will begin in Toronto.

It will end back in the city July 10 for the lighting of the cauldron at the end of the opening ceremony.

"I cannot think of a better person than Chris Hadfiled to launch this relay," said Wynne.

Olympic medallists Simon Whitfield and Catriona Le May Doan, who were among the first torchbearers at Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, were also present at the announcement.

"We want others to feel the impact of how big it is to carry that flame," said Le May Doan.

"These Games are bigger than people even realize and they will really inspire the next generation."

Anyone aged 13 and up by May 30 next year can enter to be a torchbearer at TORONTO2015.org/torch-relay as of Wednesday.

Names will be chosen by a random draw in December. Torchbearers will also be chosen by communities along with route and other stakeholders.

"The Toronto 2015 Pan Am torch relay is an invitation to the nation to join the journey, share the spirit and show community pride as we prepare to welcome the best to the biggest international multi-sport Games Canada has ever held," said Saad Rafi, CEO of the Games.

A separate Parapan Am Torch Relay will take place prior to the start of the Parapan Am Games on Aug. 7, 2015.