Torch Relay an ‘amazing opportunity’ for skier

Laurens van Vliet will carry the Olympic torch through downtown Agassiz on February 7.

During his 12 years in Agassiz, Laurens van Vliet could often be seen on the roads around Agassiz. As an avid cyclist, he makes the solitary commute by bicycle most anywhere he needs to go, and in any weather.

But when February 7 rolls around, he’ll be putting away his bike and joining a convoy of Olympic proportions.

And there will be no missing him, as he carries the Olympic torch through Agassiz. He’s one of four torchbearers for the Agassiz leg of the Torch Relay. While the relay will move between the RCMP station to the bridge, van Vliet has been assigned the portion from the Agassiz Harrison Museum to Municipal Hall.

He was told a year ago that he was shortlisted to participate, through iCoke, a major sponsor of the Oympics and the relay.

He chose to get involved with the run as a way to get behind the Olympics, and help promote their message.

“I’m very much a supporter of the Olympic Games,” he says. “I’m a competitive athlete in a winter sport, in cross country skiing, so I thought it was a good fit to represent the community in that way.”

After receiving word that he was chosen to possibly participate in the relay, he was sent a widget for his computer desktop. That prompted a daily trivia question, through iCoke, for a three month span.

He answered more than two-thirds of the time, and speculates that they used that to help gauge commitment to the relay.

When the three months had passed, he was told he passed through that first elimination process.

His next challenge was to write an essay, either on active living, or living green.

While he believes in both (van Vliet is a retired soil scientist and was a founder of the local community gardens program) he chose to write about active living, focusing on leadership.

In the past, he’s coached softball through the YMCA and led youth trips to Manning Park through Mountainview Church. He hopes promoting the Torch Relay will help pump up the community for the Winter Games.

“I subscribe to the ideals of the Olympic Games,” he says, such as “friendship, peace and unity among the people of different nations.

“I’m trying to invite as many friends and family as possible, to arouse interest in the events,” he adds.

He has already had a chance to hold the torch, as a volunteer in the practice run that came through town last year.

“It’s a beautiful torch,” he says. “This is an amazing opportunity.”

The Torch Relay will work its way through Harrison Hot Springs, Seabird Island and Agassiz on February 7.

Further details of celebrations around the community will be in the next two editions of The Observer.