Monday, December 17, 2001

Olympic flame arrives in Cincinnati today

Dozens of people will relay torch

By Mike Pulfer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dozens of people 14 to 84 years old will carry 33-inch propane torches through 34 miles of Greater Cincinnati streets today and Tuesday.

  • Public reception tonight at stadium
  • Torch route through Tristate
  • Tristate Olympic torchbearers
        They have been tapped to help move the Olympic flame 13,500 miles on a 65-day trip from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, host for the 2002 Olympic Games. This is Day 14 in the procession.

        Among the torchbearers will be a 23-vehicle caravan. The flame will be transferred from one person's torch to the next person's torch, every fifth of a mile through the city.

        When it isn't being carried by people, the Olympic flame uses various modes of transportation in making its way through 250 cities in 46 states. Among them: a dogsled and a horse-drawn sleigh, a ship, train and airplane, a ski jumper, a snowmobile, a prairie schooner and ice skaters. And, of course, sundry cars and trucks.

        The master flame — the one used to ignite the first torch of each day — is kept in a protective lantern that travels with the relay.

        Harold Deatherage, a torchbearer from Villa Hills, has not worried about training for his turn along the route.

        “I don't plan on running full jog,” he said. “It's only two-tenths of a mile — half way around a football field. The adrenalin will keep me going that far.”

        Mr. Deatherage plans to buy his torch, a $400 purchase if carriers want to keep them, and put it on traveling display at local churches and community buildings. His running clothes were supplied by the Olympics relay committee.

        “I got my suit and tried it on,” he said. “I've been wearing it around the house.”

        The torch originated in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, where the flame burned through the Games. The Olympic flame — which symbolizes purity, the endeavor for perfection, the struggle for victory, peace and friendship — begins when a torch is lighted by the sun at Olympia, Greece, then passes from runner to runner (and vehicle to vehicle) in a relay to the host city. There it is used to light a flame in a cauldron at the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony.

        On average, the flame travels about 208 miles a day.

Passing the flame

        In Cincinnati, at least 111 torchbearers, clad in free windbreakers, knit shirts, wind pants, fleece hats and gloves, were scheduled to advance the flame about 34 miles today.

        The procession begins about 4:38 this afternoon on Hamilton Avenue, north of Mount Healthy. It is scheduled to arrive at Paul Brown Stadium at 7:12 p.m.

        Not all torchbearers will run. Some will walk or push themselves in wheelchairs. Many were chosen because they have maintained winning attitudes while challenged by disabilities and illnesses.

        After its second day in Cincinnati, the caravan hauls the lantern to its next stops, at Portsmouth, Ohio, and Huntington, W.Va. The torch was to leave Louisville and pass through Frankfort, Lexington and Hebron earlier today.

        On its route through the city, only the flame transfers from person to person; torches are not passed.

        Most torchbearers don't fully know what to expect.

        “I think they'll explain everything to us when we arrive,” says Jennifer Smith, who will run in Mariemont.

        “That's the reason we are supposed to be there so early,” says Janine Winters, Finneytown, who will be running in Clifton. “I run at 6:30, and I'm supposed to be there at 5.”

        “The most exciting thing for me was when I saw the flame coming toward me,” said Mason's Greg Denaro, 47, who jogged with an Olympic torch in 1996 — a little faster than he had intended.

        “It was dark, about 5:30, on a Philadelphia morning,” he remembered. “I was standing there, holding the torch, waiting for it (the flame) to come.

        “It was phenomenally exciting,” he said. “I could feel goose bumps and, at that moment, the sensation that says, "I think I'm actually going to carry this torch. ... It had been surreal before that point. It didn't hit me until I was actually holding the torch in my hand and saw the flame coming toward me.

        “I had told myself to enjoy this, to take it nice and easy. But when I got the flame, I started jogging at a pretty quick pace — and I'm not a jogger or runner. I guess it was all adrenaline.”

        At about 8 in the morning Tuesday, an hour after the relay resumes in Covington and passes over the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge into downtown Cincinnati, he'll do it again. This time, however, his wife, Mary Rose, 50, will be his follow-up runner.

        “I get to hand the flame off to her, and she carries into Fountain Square,” he said proudly.

Riverfront event

        About 50 volunteers solicited by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission will help with parking, crowd control and visitor check-in at the “official” celebration tonight, said Bunny Arszman, communications manager/videographer for the commission. Kenyon Martin, a former University of Cincinnati basketball star now playing professionally with the New Jersey Nets, will be the last torchbearer of the day and will light the cauldron at the ceremony.

        The commission is coordinating the run.

        Cincinnati is one of dozens of U.S. cities on the torch route designated for “official” celebrations. The event, in a parking lot near Paul Brown Stadium, includes students from St. Rita School for the Deaf, Evendale, the Winton Woods High School Concert Choir and Varsity Ensemble, the Cincinnati Rhythm and Brass Band and Rozzi fireworks. Local torchbearers, in uniform, will be introduced.

        “The goal of the celebration, and the relay itself, is to boost enthusiasm and excitement for the Olympics,” Ms. Arszman said.

Torch celebration tonight at stadium
Torch route through Tristate
Tristate Olympic torchbearers

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