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Passing on the flame

The Squamish First Nations and the Olympics have something very much in common - fire. In most First Nations cultures, fire symbolizes the heart of the people.

The Squamish First Nations and the Olympics have something very much in common - fire.

In most First Nations cultures, fire symbolizes the heart of the people. It is present at all ceremonies in one form or another and represents cleansing and renewal, for out of the ashes comes new growth, new thoughts, rebirth of ideas and new ways of being.

At the ancient Olympic Games, the symbolism of fire represented the creation of the world, renewal, light - and the torch relay ensured that the sacred flame was transported swiftly, thus maintaining its power and purity.

This powerful and momentous ceremony will be re-created with a touch of Squamish style on Sunday (Aug. 29), between members of the O-Zone program and the Squamish First Nations. The two groups, along with past Olympic athletes and representatives from the District of Squamish, will all become involved together as they light the torch to symbolize Squamish's Olympic movement.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for the Squamish Nation and all the people of Squamish," said torch relay coordinator Anne Languedoc. "It will be a beautiful bridging of two communities."

The torch relay is part of the festivities of the O-Zone program, in which 50 select Squamish, Lower Mainland, and First Nations youth will be taught the core values of the Olympic movement to become ambassadors in the future for our community.

"Learning about the torch relay and the lighting of the torch is part of the learning program for the kids," Languedoc said. "We want it to be fun for the kids. It's an opportunity to show our Canadian pride by waving the flag."

To begin the procession, the torch will be lit by Squamish First Nations Elders on the Stawamus Reserve and will then be carried across the Mamquam Blind Channel by war canoe to the Squamish Yacht Club. It will then be handed over to acting Mayor Sonja Lebans before travelling by an RCMP-escorted motorcade to Camp Summit, the site of the O-Zone program.

At Camp Summit, torch bearers will run through a flag archway, (created by O-Zone participants from flags of previous Olympic-host countries) to light the cauldron on stage and mount the torch in its holder.

"The cauldron is lit by the kids and the Olympians as a tribute to Greece and the historical home of the Games," said Languedoc. "It's a symbolic liking of all the continents of the world into the Games."

After the cauldron is lit, a mock Olympic Games will be staged by the O-Zone program campers and the Squamish Emergency Program and Squamish First Nation Youth Ambassadors will be serving a salmon lunch.

The majority of the torch relay was organized by Jan Durocher, who was out of town as of The Chief's press deadline and unavailable for comment.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend the torch lighting and relay festivities, and to come dressed in full Canadiana attire with flags and painted faces.

"We want to paint the field red and white," Languedoc added.

As the event comes to a close, O Canada will be performed by Carol Grolman and Gord Durocher.

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