Richmond Torch celebration attracts record crowd

Rick Hansen approaches the cauldron at Minoru Park Tuesday night. - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Rick Hansen approaches the cauldron at Minoru Park Tuesday night.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

A crowd estimated at 30,000 watched as Rick Hansen leaned his Olympic torch into a cauldron at Minoru Park Tuesday night, marking the beginning of the 2010 Winter Games in Richmond.

At 8 p.m. Hansen powered into Minoru Park with the torch fixed to his wheelchair.

Hundreds of people had gathered along Granville Avenue to cheer him on before he wheeled onto the park's running track, which is now the centre of the O Zone celebration site.

"This flame is for each and every one of you. Never give up on your dreams," he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Lineups to enter the O Zone began forming in the afternoon, and by 7 p.m., thousands of people were still waiting at one of two site entrances—on Minoru Boulevard and on Granville Avenue—to get inside.

The huge crowd, said to be the largest in the torch's journey across Canada so far, surpassed the city's expectations.

After the cauldron lighting, the Vancouver Organizing Committee presented Mayor Malcolm Brodie with a relay-used torch—a token of appreciation for a city whose support for the Games hasn't wavered since the bid was formed.

When asked how this event compared with others in Richmond, Brodie was unequivocal.

"I don't think there's any comparing this moment to any other in our city."

Fireworks at 9:30 p.m. capped the evening off.

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