Scarborough residents will be getting into the spirit of the Winter Games later this month when the iconic Olympic torch touches down at the Scarborough Civic Centre.
The Olympic Flame is scheduled to arrive in Albert Campbell Square at 3 p.m. on Dec. 17, en route to Nathan Phillips Square where the cauldron will be lit.
According to the Prohibited Activities section of the square’s permit guidelines, however, having an open flame within the Square — even if it is the Olympic Flame — is technically illegal. That’s why Ward 35 councillor Adrian Heaps made a special request of Scarborough community council to temporarily suspend that bylaw.
The recommendation went before city council Nov. 30. The next day, exemptions were granted allowing the Olympic torch in the square, as well as the use of “special effects pyrotechnics”, because fireworks, too, are not permitted.
Getting the city’s approval for having the bylaw waived was one of many things that needed to be done in preparation for the torch’s arrival.
“There’s a huge amount of organization and there’s probably a file about two inches thick on this thing, like a mini-Olympic event in itself,” said Heaps, who also chairs the Olympic Torch Relay task force.
He said the task force, set up more than eight months ago, has the job of coordinating a large number of intergovernmental departments, including the transportation department, EMS, fire and police.
“We’re working very closely with the Vancouver Olympic Committee, we have our whole special event team working on how the torch will end up at Nathan Phillips Square, and that will be the final celebration on the evening of Dec. 17.”
The Olympic flame has been making its way across Canada since its arrival on Oct. 30 in Victoria, B.C., from Athens, Greece. It will have passed through hundreds of communities — including Saint John, N.B., Quebec and Ottawa — by the time it gets to Toronto.
It will be in the city for three days from Dec. 17 to 19, including the stopover at Albert Campbell Square in Scarborough Civic Centre on the 17th.
Staff at the civic centre have begun preparations for the day. The event at Albert Campbell Square is slated to begin at 1 p.m. Planned entertainment includes, among other things, buskers, magicians and a sledge hockey demonstration, according to the city’s website.
“That’s why we’re getting the ice ready,” said Steve Sing, who on the afternoon of Dec. 4 was already driving a Zamboni around the rink at Albert Campbell. He said the square usually attracts about 50 people, “but for this, I don’t know.”
Heaps estimated about 20,000 to 30,000 people would line the Toronto route of the torch’s journey and be at Nathan Phillips Square. A large turnout is also expected at the Scarborough Civic Centre event.
“The Olympics are a world event,” he said. “There’s so much excitement and buzz in the city.
“It means people are a part of a huge event, raises morale, people’s pride in what they do, and it allows you to put your community on the map using the Olympics as a symbol.”