October 30 - The Olympic flame has began its epic 45,000-kilometre journey around Canada, as Olympians Catriona Le May Doan and Simon Whitfield lit the torch in front of the British Columbia Legislature after its arrival from Greece and ran the first leg of the relay through Victoria’s Inner Harbour.


Le May Doan, the 1998 and 2002 Olympic 500 metres speed skating champion, and Whitfield, the Sydney 2000 Olympic triathlon gold medallist, whose identities had been kept a secret and were the topic of much speculation for weeks, lit the torch as CF-18s flew over the harbour.


Clad in white tracksuits with blue trim and white toques, Le May Doan and Whitfield walked down the legislature lawn, holding the torch in their red mittens, and jogged through the crowd.


They then lit the torch held by Olympic rower Silken Laumann  and Olympic diver Alexandre Despatie. 


Whitfield said: "To actually start jogging, that's when it really hit me, because I have that image in my head of seeing [the Calgary Olympic torch relay] with my parents, seeing the people jogging,"


Le May Doan said having the torch in her hand was a unique honour.


She said: "I've been to four Games; I've never been this close to the Olympic flame, and I think that's the part that's so emotional."


The flame arrived in Victoria behind schedule after weather delayed its flight from Athens to Canada.


It touched down at Victoria International Airport at 8:42 a.m and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson (pictured) soon emerged at the steps of the plane to show the waiting crowds.


It then was brought into the Inner Harbour aboard a First Nations canoe.


Three canoes filled with singing First Nations members in traditional dress, glided across the harbour and arrived in front of the legislature at about 10 a.m.


The flame, kept safe in a miner’s lantern, was held by a chief.


As the canoes pulled up to the dock, elders asked permission of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations to bring the torch ashore.


Drumming and singing, the elders walked the torch up to the Legislature for a welcoming ceremony.


Thousands of people, many waving Canadian flags, gathered under the drizzling grey skies on the water-logged legislature lawn to welcome the torch and watch as the first torchbearers carry the flame through the streets of Victoria.


By the time the Olympic flame arrives in Vancouver on February 12, it will have been carried 28,000 miles, to more than a Canadian communities, by more than 12,000 people.



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