Juneau prepares to take part in next year's Olympic Torch run

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2001

Juneau will make the local segment of the 2002 Olympic Torch relay run as Alaskan as possible, carrying the flame by canoe on part of its route and posing runners in front of Mendenhall Glacier.

Seventeen members of the organizing committee, including co-chairwomen Mayor Sally Smith and Tish Griffin of the University of Southeast Alaska, met Friday with Gretchen Lawler of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to go over a basic checklist furnished to all "celebration cities."

Juneau's celebration on Jan. 24, 2002, the only torch stop in Alaska, will be beamed to the world by NBC-TV in a 30-second broadcast that evening, so everything needs careful coordination, Lawler said.

The committee discussed items from extra trash receptacles along the torch route to custom No Parking signs bearing the Torch Relay logo to a tow rope in case the Goldbelt canoe encounters a Taku wind. The canoe will paddle the torch across the downtown waterfront from the Goldbelt dock to the intermediate vessel float, Griffin said.

The Coast Guard will see to a 32-foot support boat for the canoe. Police will take care of traffic control. The city Public Works Department will deal with the trash cans, while other committee members will see to concessions and entertainment such as traditional Native dancing.

A snow blower-sander will lead the procession, with police sandwiching the runner and five associate support runners, said Kim Kiefer, committee member and director of the city Parks and Recreation Department.

A vehicle sponsored by Coca-Cola will precede the torch by half an hour, with "crowd-building activities" such as announcements over a loudspeaker and a man in a polar bear suit.

"Some cities are putting a police escort with this vehicle for pedestrian safety because kids may sprint out of their homes to get to it," Lawler said, "but I'll leave that up to you."

"Up here, a polar bear driving a truck is pretty normal," said Rob Skinner, another committee member and local Chevy dealer. Skinner is donating Torch Run merchandise through the Glacier Rotary Club to the Boys and Girls Cub, to be sold as a fund-raiser for the club.

"This is the only city in America that is being allowed to sell merchandise at the celebration and make profit on it," Lawler said.

Activities inside Centennial Hall will include Capitol City Fire and Rescue selling hot dogs, free coffee, and dancing by a local Native group. Doors open at 10 a.m. and videos will be shown before the main program, at which Ron Clarke will serve as master of ceremonies. The torch is expected to be carried into the hall about 11:10.

Smith said she sees the gathering at Centennial Hall as a "social event" for all ages that will be enjoyable and patriotic.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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