A ‘Turin Twirl’ in Beijing

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Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan reprises 2006 move to lead Canadians in torch relay
Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan did his trademark “Turin Twirl” Friday when he received the Paralympic torch as the first of 10 Canadians to participate in the 2008 Paralympic torch relay.
With thousands of people looking on, Sullivan took the torch in front of the China Millennium Monument in Beijing and swung it in a circle, just as he had done with the Olympic and Paralympic flags at the closing of the 2006 Turin Winter Games.
Sullivan led a procession of six Canadians who carried the torch as the city counted down the second to last day before the opening ceremony.

Four other Canadians will carry the torch Saturday in the hours before it enters the Bird’s Nest National Stadium for the Opening Ceremony.
Sullivan, who has been in China for the last two weeks, said it was a stunning experience to carry the torch, especially so close to the Opening Ceremony.
But he said it was also humbling for him, because he has witnessed over the last couple of weeks in China the challenge the country faces in making itself more accessible and open to people with disabilities.
“You know, China has made a lot of effort to become more accessible for tourists. But I believe there is still lots of difficulties in China for the tens of millions of Chinese people who have some form of disability,” he said.
“I think the Paralympics will help change that because it is bringing a lot of attention to the needs of ordinary Chinese citizens.”
Sullivan used a specially fitted device on his wheelchair to hold the torch as he rolled down the street, flanked by helpers and waving to thousands of spectators. He also caused something of a minor diplomatic incident. He arrived at the event wearing a Canadian jersey over his uniform.
Organizers asked him to take it off, but according to David Hurford, his press secretary, “he politely declined.”
Sullivan rolled for about 400 metres before handing the torch off to a member of the Chinese media, who was also selected for the relay.
Sullivan was almost immediately surrounded by about 200 members of the media, with whom he conducted interviews entirely in Mandarin.
The event evoked memories of Turin, where Sullivan carried and twirled the flags of the two Games at the close of the 2006 Turin Winter Games.
Those images became symbolic for Vancouver, considered one of the most accessible cities in the world, and also for Sullivan, who has used a wheelchair since he was injured in a skiing accident when he was a teenager.
Sullivan joked that the new torch holder made for his wheelchair is actually not new at all.
“I prepared for the event by converting the flag holder I used in Turin into a torch holder. We recycled,” he quipped.
The Canadians were invited to participate in the relay as a consolation after the Beijing Organizing Committee cancelled a planned international torch relay through the other Olympic host cities of Vancouver, London and Sochi, Russia.
At the time, officials said they were cancelling the tour in the wake of the devastating May 12 Sichuan earthquake.
But it also came after Beijing weathered embarrassing and at times violent protests during the international leg of the Olympic torch relay.
The Paralympic torch relay, kept to a strictly domestic route inside China’s borders, has escaped any of those problems.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee and the City of Vancouver each named four torchbearers, with Whistler naming two.
Sullivan was chosen by the CPC in recognition of his work in promoting the 2010 Paralympics.
It’s an issue close to his heart, he said.
“We put a lot of emphasis on promoting the Olympics, but I think we need to also pay attention to the Paralympics,” he said.
“It is an event that can bring great social change, and here in China a lot of work still needs to be done to help people with disabilities.”
Other Canadians carrying the torch Friday were Sian Blyth, of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program; Sarah Tipler, a Whistler volunteer; Eamonn Nolan, whose wife Victoria is representing Canada in rowing; Paralympic coach Peter Eriksson, and Winnipeg native Duncan Campbell, the founder of Quad Rugby.
Four others participating on Saturday are Paralympians Andrea Holmes, Bruce Gilmour and Brad Lennea, and Olympian Shirley Olafsson.