Winter lights burn bright in Juneau

Empire editorial

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002

Yesterday was one of those days many in Juneau will remember for the rest of their lives. The Olympic flame coursed its way through Alaska's capital city on a picture-perfect day and lit the flame of unity, hope and joy in all who witnessed this once-in-a-lifetime event. It was only five months ago that the community joined together in a sharing of grief and sorrow.

Yesterday was a day for jubilance and celebration with the smiles of school children and adults alike burning as bright as the Olympic flame. Mother nature even acquiesced on this day, adorning Juneau with a thick coat of snow and enough sunshine to show off to the world the magnificence of Alaska and our town.

It is especially fitting that America will host the winter Olympics, the jewel of all sporting events, in these troubled times. What a great morale boost it is in the dark days of winter to turn our attention to such an uplifting spectacle. The 51 Alaskans selected to carry the torch symbolize the Olympic spirit in all of us.

Weather phenomena dominated the day. Olympic Torch Committee Chair Sally Smith was anxious about the air flight carrying the Olympic flame being able to safely land in the wee hours of the morning after a day of stormy weather. But, as if on cue, the sky opened at the appropriate time to allow the Alaska Airline and Skywest jets to land as scheduled.

She later witnessed another fortuitous act of nature, as the clouds shrouding the Mendenhall Glacier lifted to accentuate the passing of the torch to the delight of the many photographers who were there to capture the image.

The Alaskan spirit was carried in good stead, too, on the keel of a magnificent Tlingit canoe paddled by a hearty crew of Alaska's first people. Native dancers decked out in stunning ceremonial robes added to the cultural experience at the community celebration in Centennial Hall.

Mayor Smith, Kim Kiefer and the Olympic Torch Committee and scores of volunteers are to be commended for their hard work over the past year in organizing and putting on this unforgettable week-long celebration.

The many sponsors, including Capital Chevrolet and Coca Cola, also deserve gratitude for their financial commitment to bring the Olympic flame to Juneau.

Juneau has once again proven that despite its parochial differences, it is at its essence a community with a heart and soul.

Juneau is making a bid to host the Arctic Winter Games in four years. This is another great opportunity for our community to join together in a very worthwhile effort that is certain to generate a lot of goodwill.

Don Smith


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