Monday, February 22, 2010

OLYMPIC SPIRIT: An Interview with Torchbearer #035

As most know, the Olympic Games have been going on for a week now in Vancouver. The Canadian one. It's a bit of a big deal, and for those who live with the Games on their doorsteps... it's a HUGE inconvenience.

Seriously, the things are impossible to avoid. Walk down any street and you're inundated with red and white and maple leafs and rings. Even a simple drive downtown ends up taking an hour longer than it should. Feels like we're in a police state with an overdrawn bank account.

And despite my best efforts to the contrary, it's impossible not to get caught up in the excitement. So then when I had a chance encounter with Olympic torchbearer Jim Hubbeard, it was too perfect a chance to simply pass up. Without further ado, here's an interview with Torchbearer #035!

TRENCHCOAT ANTI-CRITIC: Can you tell the readers a little about yourself? Are you a sports fan in general, or are the Olympics a special exception?
JIM HUBBEARD: When it comes to sports I used to prefer to play rather than watch, but as I grew older and unable to play, I became much more enthusiastic about watching sports. That being said I've never been following sports so closely that I know all the players names and such. I've always made it up in my mind that I wouldn't be one of those guys who couldn't miss a game on tv; except when the Olympics are on. I do become a crazy fan who dons his Canada jersey and follows as closely as I can.

TAC: How did you become a torchbearer? Were you approached, or did you apply?
JH: The torchbearer story is actually quite awesome. I remember going into the Petro Canada and getting torchrun entrance forms with my dad in 1988. I was supremely disappointed when I wasn't chosen. From that day it became a dream of mine. I was sure that I was going to marry Elizabeth Manly when I grew up. Thus began my obsession with the Olympics.

I resigned my self to the fact that Elizabeth Manly was too old and out of my league.

When I saw on that there was a possibility I could become torchbearer, I spent some of my icoins to enter. I received an email that I had made the first round and that I needed to write an essay about living green. It was awhile after that when I received an email that I was selected to be a torchbearer. I didn't totally believe it until Coke followed up the email with a phone call.

TAC: When and where did you do your run with the torch?
JH: I carried the torch in Maple Ridge on February 8.

TAC: Can you talk about the experience leading up to the run?
Getting up at 4:30 in the morning to meet with the other torchbearers and the organizing comittee was not much fun, but the gushing they all did over us made us all feel as though we were the athletes. The emphasis that was placed on us carrying the torch really brought how much of an honour this really was.

When they handed us our torches before we got on the bus, it was all that many of us could do to keep from crying. Even the older men were welling up. I don't know how else to describe it.

TAC: What can you tell the readers about your experience on the big day?
JH: I know there was a some controversy about the opening video and the torch run in Germany, but the movie was definitely not anti-Semitic. It too brought tears to our eyes. Once the first torch bearer stepped off the bus we could all hear the cheers from the crowd. A surge of pride filled that bus.

When I was called to get off the bus I felt like a rock star. There weren't as many people there, but it was so surreal. People were getting poictures of me with the torch before it was lit.

I even had people ask for my autograph!

As I watched the "party buses" come closer, my excitement began to grow to an overwhelming level. I kept asking my self if this was real. An actual dream of mine was coming true! After the buses passed amidst the hugs and even kisses from the dancers, I could see the lights from the cop cars flashing and the security guards running around a little flame glowing in the distance.

This is where you could queue the cheesy inspirational music for the movie (I think Kevin James could play me!).

When that flame lit my torch, it was a feeling of exhilaration I can't really describe. To some of my friends it was no big deal that I was doing this. I can't understand how they could be so passive. This was one of the most amazing events that has ever happened to me (besides marrying my wife and having our two kids) and as I started to run it really hit me; I was carrying the Olympic flame! Me!

I cried as I ran (well, hobbled more than ran. I'm fighting Mitochondrial disease and Arthritis in my lower spine). That moment I was the one who was bringing the Olympics to Vancouver. The flame that was started by the rays of the sun in Greece was now erupting from my torch above my head. There are no words that can ever truly convey the feeling that washes over you.

TAC: Reportedly both Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman have participated in the torch rally. So too have several former Olympiads. How do you feel to have been a participant in an event with such people as peers?
JH: To put it simply, it is an honour to be put in the same category as these people. It is the closest to an Olympian I will ever be.

TAC: Do you have any reflections on the event now that your part in it is over?
JH: One thing that we were told was that we were carrying a symbol of peace. A flame that brought nations together. What more can I say?

TAC: What are your thoughts on the Olympic Games so far? Is it going how you thought it would be? Any surprises? Any predictions?
JH: I am very proud of our athletes.

Alexandre Bilodeau started a wave of gold from the podium that has really brought out the patriotism of our country. As for predictions, I keep that to myself. I will say that I am surprised at the lack of respect some players have shown for their particular sport and fellow athletes. I was not happy that the US beat us in men's hockey, and I feel the referee's were turning more than one blind eye, but I will also say that Miller had an awesome
game for the US.

What is it about these athletes that gives them the arrogance to step on the gold medal podium and whine that they didn't win? That is the surprise for me. My kids
(they've been watching with us) were surprised at this childish behavior and that says something that a high fuctioning autistic 10 year old boy and a 8 year old girl can see this behavior is wrong, but coaches are promoting this.

8 years old. Enough said.

TAC: There has been some controversy over the 2010 Olympics. From the massive debt-load, to the protesters. What's your opinion on said controversy? If you could, what would you say to protesters?
I am a very big supporter of the games, but I do think some things have been handled very badly. I wont try to say I fully understand the difficulties because I'm on the outside, but hosting the games and other major events that involve the country are kind of a necessity.

We have to showcase ourselves on the global stage as a marketing tool. That being said, I think the politicians are awesome at ignoring other areas that need attention. No matter how I answer, I'll probably tick people off so I'll stop now.

TAC: What do you think will be the legacy of the 2010 Olympics? How will history remember these three weeks?
JH: I think the great finishes we have already seen are pretty self explanatory.

TAC: Any closing thoughts?
JH: I hope your readers know that I mean no disrespect in regards to the two answers above. I'm just a huge fan of the games and my country.

A huge thank you to Jim Hubbeard for being game for this interview.

Until next time, I'm the Trenchcoat Anti-Critic.

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