In 1996, the Olympics were held at Atlanta Georgia. Since the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the torch has been carried from Greece and through the host country. For 1996, a 84 day tour of the United States after arriving in Los Angeles, the site of the 1984 Olympic Games. The route was designed to encompass most of the areas of our vast country. One loop of the relay actually passed through Bremerton.
The torch relay also planned for many modes of transportation to carry the torch: runners, boats, trains, horse riders and bicycles. I was a member of the United States Cycling Federation(USCF). They were responsible for assigning the cyclists to carry the torch.
So what was my Olympic moment?
I applied and was accepted to escort the torch from Lacey Wa to the outskirts of Tacoma in Lakewood. A distance of about 25 miles. This was Day 11 of the torch relay. It was a fun experience. We were escorted by a large contingent of vehicles. The state of Georgia supplied a lot of the BMW motorcycles and law enforcement vehicles. Georgia state troopers were part of the escorting personnel. We rode right up Interstate 5 and through part of Fort Lewis. The soldiers were hanging out their barracks window cheering us. I would have liked to have carried the torch( the carriers got to buy the torch), but I will always remember this. And I have some cool mementos to help me remember.
Some Factoids about the torch and it's travels:
People are concerned about the torch going out. Our relay team carried a "mother flame" in a miners lamp as a precaution. In fact the torch I escorted blew out and had to be relit before the flame was passed.
After we passed the flame to runners, they took the torch through Tacoma and passed the flame to some cyclists to carry across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Gig Harbor. It was a windy, stormy day. The cyclist torch bearer was pushed across the lane by the wind and hit an expansion joint in the roadway. The shock broke his rear wheel and also dislodged the torch from the bicycles rack. The torch hit the bridge deck and broke in pieces. It made national news and I believe the cyclist was invited to the Jay Leno show.
The Olympic Committee was hoping to get a picture of the torch while it was carried across the Warren Avenue bridge with the Olympic Mountains in the background, Kind of an "Olympics meets Olympics" photo op. But it was too cloudy to see the mountains.
The Olympic Committee was also upset that so many businesses in the Pacific Northwest used "Olympic" as part of their business name. The Olympic Committee threatened to sue the businesses if they did not change their names as the "Olympic" name was licensed to the International Olympic Committee. Many wondered if the Olympic Mountains would need to be renamed as well...
Here is the acceptance letter. It listed me as an alternate, but evidently things changed and I got a call from the organizer telling me that I was accepted as an alternate.
They gave use shorts, jersey, helmet, water bottle and since it had been raining, a jacket. I still have all this gear.
The relay had bicycles for our use. Unfortunately we could not keep them! We had to supply our own pedals. That is not unusual in the cycling world, we all have our preferences in shoes and pedals.
Waiting for the torch to arrive. The guy on the left got to carry the torch. I cannot remember his name.
Waiting for the torch to arrive.
The torch has arrived, the flame passed, the new torch loaded and we are ready to go!
Cruising down the outside lane of I5. Since I was the escort, I was the one exposed to the traffic in the next lane. Or maybe the expendable person in case of attacks by some crazy individual.
The entourage extended for a long ways. The motorcycle police were in the lead. The police cars were troopers from Georgia. The RV carried dignitaries and officials. We were behind the truck behind the RV and behind us were more cars and motorcycles. Most of the vehicles and the motorcycles were BMW's, there was a factory in Georgia.
This truck was just ahead of us with the cameras in our face the entire time.
Later in the day, a cyclist arrived in Bremerton with the torch and passed it off to a runner.
The last person to carry the torch in Bremerton was a disabled athlete. Here the torch lit a cauldron on the ferry and made its way to Seattle.
The cauldron arrives in Seattle.