Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The 2010 Canadian Summer Special Olympics! - Part I

The Opening Ceremony

It was Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 5:45 in the a.m. and I was enjoying the sunrise as I drove to work.

This was going to be a special week for selected Murphy Bus drivers as we had the honour and privilege of driving all the athletes to and from their events during The 2010 Canadian Summer Special Olympics!

I knew that this was going to be a great week cuz the clouds had formed a halo over all the buses in the yard.

During this first day, we drove the athletes to their venues for a little bit of practice before the actual competitions began the next morning. Later that evening, we drove the athletes to the opening ceremonies and we (the drivers) were excited to learn that we could stay to watch this event!

The stands were totally full of family and friends of the athletes and the spirits were very high! The excitement was building…

This is me, with five of my driver friends!

It was quite a spectacle watching all the different coloured shirts entering the stadium. Athletes from all across this great nation of ours waved flags, hands and smiles as they responded to all the shouts and cheers from the stands.

Team Ontario had the most athletes with a total of just over four hundred!

Each team was led into the stadium by a different group of people. Bagpipe musicians led in some teams and others were led in by police dignitaries and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Throughout this process the fans in the stands grew louder and louder. I’m sure that the athletes were just feasting on all of this excited attention! Once all the athletes had assembled in the middle of UWO’s stadium an announcer asked all the athletes to show their appreciation for us – their fans – by turning and giving us a wave. The whole stadium blew up with waves of cheers by everyone!!!

It seemed like everyone had a little something that they wanted to say to the athletes, to welcome them to London, to encourage them in their pursuits and to thank them for being an inspiration to the world.

Musicians and bands entertained the crowds and a group of local young dancers shared their talents.

Then… everything went a little bit quiet. A faint “Whup-whup-whup…” could be heard in the distance and as each second passed this noise grew louder and louder.

I think that everyone was surprised to see a helicopter coming in for a landing, right in the middle of this football field! Who was inside? What was inside? Was this the moment for the Olympic Flame to enter the stadium? Somehow I didn’t think that an open flame (Olympic or not) would be allowed to burn inside a helicopter.

Some commotion was happening around the landed chopper and another vehicle came by and passengers were transferred. Oh my! Could it be!!!!? Was the bachelorette and her concubine of male escorts here… in Canada?! LOL!

No! It was Don Cherry – Canada’s most loved and sometimes hated sports personality!!! He had three hockey players with him as well. Keeping the “London, Ontario” athletic pride going, I believe that these three athletes had all played for the London Knights and now they had advanced into the NHL.

Don spoke to the crowd and special athletes and everyone cheered! Later that evening, as I was driving one group from Team Ontario back to their residences, the athletes all showed me their hats that were now marked with Don Cherry’s autograph. The athletes were so stoked by this! There were a lot of hats so I image that Don had been signing for quite a while.

After all of these events had taken place I was beginning to wonder when the finale would occur – the lighting of the Olympic Flame. Then something caught my eye and I looked up. A beautiful hawk had appeared from seemingly nowhere and it was heading our way. Several people followed my hand as I pointed towards it and we watched as it flew over the entire crowd. For many years the hawk has been one of my life-totems so I took this sign as a good one. I smiled.

Then it was time for the lighting of the Olympic Flame…

It started with this procession of police cars.

Then over five hundred volunteer torch runners entered the stadium that had become an almost deafening place to be!!!

And then… there it was! Our first sight of the Olympic Torch!!

This is one happy dude!

The flame was passed on to these two people – an athlete and (I think) London’s Police Chief for…

… the lighting of…

… The Olympic Flame!!!

The excitement and overflowing positive energy that filled the stadium affected everyone. Smiles abounded and friendships blossomed during this time. I (and I believe that I speak for all Murphy Bus drivers) was deeply honoured to have been a part of these ceremonies – the official kickoff to a week that would be soon be filled with the blood, sweat and tears of athletes pursuing their dreams!


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