Monday, April 19, 2010

Queen’s Baton in Vancouver

Canada's summer athletes may be riding the wave of enthusiasm from the Vancouver Winter Olympics into the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi come October.

The Queen's Baton Relay – which is the Commonwealth Games equivalent of the Olympic torch relay, minus a lot of the hoopla – came through Toronto yesterday and it brought out some of the athletes preparing to compete for Canada in India. The baton, which contains a message from the Queen, is doing a 190,000 kilometer tour through the 71 nations and territories comprising the Commonwealth of Nations.

Among those carrying the fancy baton (you don't see one of these at kids' track meets) were a pair of Summer Olympians, wrestler Ohenewa Akuffo of Brampton (left in above picture) and shooter Avianna Chao of Newmarket.

Okuffo was able to get a four-day gig working in hospitality for RBC during the Vancouver Games.

“The energy there was unbelievable,” said Akuffo. “You could feel the unity and you knew that was rippling throughout the country. You knew that was just a start. It was like when somebody throws a pebble into the lake. It just rejuvenated you in a way that nothing else could have done. That's what the Olympics do. It unites the country, it unites the world and Vancouver did an amazing job of doing so.”

Chao was also still feeling the positive vibe of the Vancouver Olympics.

“I was just inspired as a Canadian,” she said. “Wow. I mean like Joannie Rochette, that tragedy and then she turned it around and made the Games her own and showed the world. That's unbelievable. To me, that's true Olympic spirit. I was like 'Wow, I've got to work harder.' That's what I felt.”

The 2010 Commonwealth Games will be held Oct. 3-14 in Delhi and are expected to feature most of Canada's top athletes. CBC-TV announced yesterday they will be covering the Games.

“You think about it, not too long ago we had the torch relay come through,” said Akuffo. “That's the beginning of the Olympics. Now, you look at the Queen's baton, that's letting you know that something is on the horizon. It makes it so exciting coming through Toronto because you know it's a huge Indian community also. We're going through their home but they also have their brothers here so it makes it very exciting.”

High Society: Bob Mackin from 24 Hours is reporting that Sports Minister Gary Lunn's hotel bill from Feb. 4 to March 1 in Vancouver and Whistler totaled $10,213.49, or an average of $392.83 a night. Deputy minister Judith LaRocque, the Olympic mission coordinator for the feds, spent an average of $247.55 average.

The athletes might want to use that as leverage next time Lunn says he doesn't have money in the coffers for them.

Rising Numbers: The Quebec speed skating federation has broken the 5,000-member barrier and now has 5,128 members from 48 clubs due to an increase in interest after the Olympics. Now, they just need to get a roof on their Oval.

Hrab leaving: Christian Hrab, high performance director of Canada Snowboard, is stepping down on June 30. He helped guide the team to three Olympic medals (two gold) and great success on the World Cup the last two seasons.

“It has been such a joy to work with so many passionate people from world class athletes, to a highly competent integrated service team to world leading coaches,” said Hrab in a statement. “I am sad to leave all these great people, but the job is done. I am pleased to be moving on to other projects and new challenges.”