Gretzky? Greene Raine? Terry Foxs family? Speculation rife over final 2010 torchbearer

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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VANCOUVER - Will it be the Great One or Sid the Kid? A former Olympic darling or someone who could stand on the medal podium this time around?
Speculation abounds about who will carry the final Olympic torch to light the cauldron marking the start of the 2010 Games in just two days.
Wayne Gretzky's legion of fans have made him an early favourite in the online world with a Facebook page dedicated to getting him the gig.
The Gretzky gang extol the Great One's virtues, including that he is recognizable around the world, a former Olympian and that he was executive director of the men's hockey team that ended a 50-year gold medal drought for Canada at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
But Sidney Crosby has his own contingent lobbying on his behalf, even though his team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, will be playing Friday night as the cauldron is engulfed in flames.
Former Olympian-turned-Tory-senator Nancy Greene Raine's name also trips off wagging tongues. Greene Raine won gold and silver at the Grenoble 1968 Winter Games and is Canada's ambassador for the 2010 Games. She carried the torch in Kamloops, which some say rules her out for a repeat performance on the final day of the relay.
But that's not true. Olympic rules do not preclude such an encore performance. Nor do they rule out politicians or otherwise lay out rules for who is eligible.
At the 1988 Calgary Games, 12-year-old figure skater Robyn Perry lit the cauldron, and at the 1976 Montreal Games the honour went to teens Stephane Prefontaine and Sandra Henderson.
Boxing great Muhammad Ali lit the flame marking the start of the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and Norwegian Prince Haakon was the final torchbearer at the Lillehammer Games in Norway.
The sentimental favourite for the final stretch of the 45,000-kilometre Canadian relay is Betty Fox, the mother of national hero Terry Fox, the one-legged runner who fell short of his dream to run coast-to-coast to raise money for cancer but whose valiant battle against the disease that finally took his life has inspired tens of millions around the world to raise immeasurable funds for cancer research.
Betty Fox, too, has already run with the torch, and so has Terry's father, Rolly. But that has not daunted the nearly 130,000 people who have signed onto the Facebook page "Terry's Fox's mother to light the flame at the 2010 Games."
The final torchbearer is a closely guarded secret and organizers have sometimes gone to great lengths to conceal the identity, including in Sydney where aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman entered the ceremonies hidden with the team, and then surprised spectators at the end by emerging with the final flame.
There is no small number of people who believe someone of First Nations ancestry should be the last bearer of the flame at the Vancouver Games - and there were government discussions to that end, according to media reports based on internal government documents.
There are proponents for current Olympians Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes. Hughes will carry the Canadian flag at the ceremonies, but she makes a case for speedskating champion Gaetan Boucher.
"For me, my dream and my connection and my awareness of the Olympics began with him in 1988. To me, he's just a champion and a great man and a great ambassador of Canada," she said.
"What he did in Sarajevo was phenomenal, that was a time when East Germany was still East Germany and Russia was still Russia, and he wasn't the biggest guy but he had a heart bigger than anyone and he worked so hard for those medals. To me, he showed what it takes, the hard work and dedication and just laying it all on the line and I love that."
For his part, Boucher swears he has not been asked to light the flame. Choosing his words carefully, the four-time Olympic medallist and member of the Order of Canada didn't say he was disappointed but that "it would have been fun."
For his part, Hughes' teammate Jeremy Wotherspoon has weighed in on Gretzky's behalf.
Gilbert Felli, the director of Olympic Games for the International Olympic Committee, said there is always great speculation about the final torchbearer - and great effort to guard the secret.
"Now people are 'Oh, the magic, the magic, who is it going to be?' It's going to be this one, it's going to be this one, it's going to be this one.' So that's what makes the magic of the Olympic Games," he said.
"I think it's fantastic to have a few secrets."

Organizations: Pittsburgh Penguins, Olympic Games, First Nations International Olympic Committee

Geographic location: Canada, VANCOUVER, Salt Lake City Games Kamloops Atlanta, Georgia Norway East Germany Russia Sydney Sarajevo

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