I went just after six and as I walked I could hear the festivities (I sang along with Ordinary Day by Great Big Sea as I walked along Queen St.). Even though I'm not the biggest fan of the Olympics (more about that in a bit), I couldn't help but get wrapped up in the excitement. I couldn't believe it: the Olympic torch was coming to Fredericton! For the first time in my life I'd get to see part of the Olympics in person!
Once I got to Queen St. (Officer's Square, where the festivities were, is about half a block away from NBCCD), the crowds started to get really big. The sidewalks were packed, but the biggest crowd was in the Square itself.
After hanging around on the sidewalk and taking photos there, I headed down into the crowd. I hope I don't sound totally weird when I say that I love being in a big crowd like that.
I chatted with one of the torch-bearers who ran that day in Oromocto and CFB Gagetown and got to hold the torch he'd used--it still had the soot from the flame. The torch weighs three and a half pounds, but to me it seemed heavier because of the way the weight is distributed (it's centred in the bulge in the middle of the torch). And yes, it does look like a marijuana joint--there's no getting away from it (though the Vancouver 2010 website says that the design was inspired by "Canada's open land, vast potential and smooth, fluid lines left in the snow and ice from winter sports").
Eventually the torch arrived, carried by Marianne Limpert. I, like everyone else, screamed my lungs out as she lit the cauldron onstage.
When we sang O Canada I didn't bother to hold back the tears. I haven't cried that hard during a national anthem since President Obama won the election (and that time it was The Star-Spangled Banner that made me choke up). I cried so hard that at one point I couldn't sing.
Wendy Nielsen (an opera singer from NB--and yes, she's sung at the Met) sang with the Fredericton Choral Society.
Then another guy whose name I forget sang and played steel guitar.
At one point towards the end the emcee had the crowd scream as loud as we could. He then told us that we were now a part of Olympic history.
They then put the flame in a lantern and extinguished the flame in the cauldron.
And just like that, the community celebration was over. I chatted with another torch-bearer, who told a small crowd how the torch works. I also stopped at the RBC booth and had my photo taken with a torch (that hadn't been used in the relay :-( ). They gave me a card with an ID number that I can enter online and download my photo. When I checked, it hadn't been posted so I entered my email address and at some point I'll get a notice saying that the photo is available. After that I headed back to MJC.
Today the flame left Fredericton. The route went past MJC and NBCCD, but I didn't hear anything at either place. I think if someone had noticed it they would've told others.
Earlier I said that I'm not a big fan of the Olympics, so I'll expand on that: the Olympics are a great idea and the ideals that they promote are worth pursuing, but the Games often fall far short of actually providing an example of those ideals. The Games are meant to bring the world together through sport, but they've been boycotted several times over the years by various countries (including Canada in the 1980 Summer Games); the Beijing Games were heavily protested and there were several things that the press covered quite heavily (the "ugly" girl who can sing really well vs. the "pretty" girl who lip-synched, among other things); Hitler used the Berlin Games to show off Germany's power; far too many doping scandals to count over the years, etc., etc. All of which have added up to make me lose my faith in the Olympics.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like ending on a bad note: two weeks, one day until the Metropolitan Opera's first radio broadcast of the season (Il Trittico by Puccini) and one week, two days until the Passamaquoddy Bay Symphony Orchestra's next concert in St. Andrews. You can tell where my priorities lie! This will be my third PBSO concert in seven months--whew!