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Joerg Koch/AFP/Getty Images

Schwarzenegger, Buble to carry torch

The Globe and Mail
By Mark Hume, The Globe and Mail Posted Monday, February 8, 2010 2:32 PM ET

Olympic organizers have saved the best for last, rolling out a list of special torch bearers - including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wayne Gretzky's father - to carry the Flame in its final days this week.

And more big names, such as NBA star Steve Nash and The Great One himself, are expected to take part although VANOC isn't confirming yet the total star power that will be brought to bear to bring the Flame home to what are expected to be huge crowds.

"Clearly we want to have a big finish," VANOC CEO John Furlong said at a press conference Monday as he unveiled the names of some of the special torch bearers.

"We have added . . .iconic Canadians and iconic internationals . . . just to add a little more drama," he said.

Mr. Furlong said the 45,000 kilometre journey, which started Oct. 3 in Victoria and has detoured to the High Arctic, the East Coast and crossed the entire country before returning to B.C., has "gone without a hitch" and is drawing increasingly large crowds.

He said there were 10,000 people on the streets of Mission when the Flame procession went through Monday, at about 6 a.m., and another 100,000 lined the route from there to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

"It's been a fantastic journey," said Mr. Furlong as the longest torch relay in Olympics history headed for conclusion, Friday, when the last of some 12,000 torch bearers will carry it into BC Place Stadium for opening ceremonies.

The list released Monday included stars from the fields of sports, the arts, and politics.

But Mr. Furlong said there are some names still being held back.

"The list in not all exhaustive, so we'll let you do your own research," he said when reporters wanted to know if Wayne Gretzky is carrying the torch, since his father, Walter Gretzky will do so at 8:20 a.m. on Friday.

Mr. Furlong smiled as he dodged the question, hinting the rumors are true that #99 will be carrying the Flame at some point in Vancouver.

Gov. Schwarzenegger will carry the Flame at 7:03 a.m., Friday, on Stanley Park's famous Sea Wall walkway.

Sebastian Coe, a middle distance runner from Britain who has won two Olympic gold medals and who is Chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, will hand the torch off to Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Rolly Fox, the father of Canadian cancer hero, Terry Fox, will hoist the torch near English Bay, while former Vancouver sports stars, Stan Smyl and Richard Brodeur (ex-Canucks), Bob Lenarduzzi ( Manager and past player with the Vancouver Whitecaps), Gareth Rees (former international rugby star) and Luis Passaglia (BC Lions) will also take turns.

Mr. Nash, a two time MVP in the NBA, who is currently putting up some of the best numbers since the 2006-07 season (averaging 18.4 points and 11.1 assists per game) will break away from his basketball job with the Phoenix Suns to carry the torch on Thursday, in Vancouver.

Julie Payette, Canadian astronaut, Jann Arden, an award winning singer will also be torch bearers.

In its last few minutes in public, before the Flame re-appears for the opening ceremonies, singing star Michael Buble will hand the torch off to Ken Lyotier, who will light the cauldron at Vancouver's celebration site.

Mr. Lyotier isn't well known outside Vancouver, but he's won numerous commendations in the city for his efforts in founding United We Can, an unusual social enterprise that provides a processing point for all the cans and bottles picked up by street people. The project has allowed many of Vancouver's poorest people a way to earn extra income.

Despite the star studded cast of torch bearers, Olympic organizers realize they may face protests as the Flame passes through the city, and especially when it enters the Downtown Eastside.

"I'm not worried about disruptions," he said. "I think if people make it to the side of the road to express their views we trust that they'll do it in a traditional Canadian way - respectfully. . . but we're not anticipating anything other than a fantastic celebration over the three or four days to come."

Several groups have warned of protests, however, and have said they will disrupt activities Friday and Saturday.

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