The spirit of the Olympic Games will come to Ann Arbor today as local residents are set to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay, helping carry the flame to next month”s Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Spectators are welcome to watch runners carrying the torch at all points of the route, including designated gathering areas outside Michigan Stadium, at the corner of Stadium and South Main, at 10:02 a.m. and Rampy Chevrolet, at the corner of Jackson and Wagner, at 10:50 a.m., where there will be a brief celebration and lighting of a small ceremonial cauldron. Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin, the Michigan Marching Band and other guest speakers will be in attendance at the ceremony.
Ten Ann Arbor residents, including University Regent David Brandon, will carry the flame through the city today as it begins at 9:20 a.m. on Washtenaw Avenue near Arborland Mall and continues on Stadium, Main, Huron and Jackson.
They are just a fraction of the 11,500 total torchbearers chosen from more than 210,000 nominations nationwide. Torchbearers were nominated by family, friends and colleagues who wrote short essays describing how each nominee embodied the Olympic spirit by inspiring others.
Parishioners of St. John”s Episcopal Church in Howell said exactly that of their pastor, Ruth Strang of Ann Arbor.
“I”ll be so excited. I just hope I can walk briskly enough,” said Strang, 78.
Rev. Barbara Cavin of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Saline describes Strang as a “feisty lady” with an “enormous amount of compassion and caring for people.”
“She is definitely a role model for women seeking professional careers,” Cavin added.
In addition to being ordained priest, Strang is also a doctor of pediatric cardiology. After retiring from her position at Wayne County Hospital in 1989, she went on to earn a master”s degree from Seabury Western Seminary in 1993.
“To me, she is the perfect example that women are able to meet their career goals with grace, faith, and a sense of humor,” said Sarah Blake, a St. John”s parishioner.
Barton A. Dennis of Ann Arbor won”t describe himself as a man of inspiration, but to his wife and children he is just that.
Dennis, an advanced purchasing buyer for General Motors, said he was “extremely surprised” when notified that he would be one of the lucky few to pass along the Olympic flame in its journey to Salt Lake City.
Dennis was nominated by his wife, Dawn, who said that when she saw an advertisement calling for nominations, he immediately came to mind. In the nomination essay, she described her husband as a man of “loyalty, integrity, dignity and grit.”
“I had no idea she did this until after she submitted it, so there was no turning back,” Dennis said.
Dawn Dennis said of her husband”s current hometown celebrity status, “It is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The greatest gift is seeing all the friends and family that want to come out to support him and be a part of the event. It just reaffirms that other people see the same qualities that I see in him.”
She added that in addition to the country rallying to support its Olympic athletes, the Torch Relay allows everyday people to participate in its festivities. “It demonstrates that we can all carry a little bit of that flame inside ourselves,” she said.
Since the Olympic Flame was ignited in Olympia, Greece, in November, it has been kept in a closely guarded lantern that travels with the relay.
Each runner will carry the flame for about two-tenths of a mile however, the flame will also travel by less common means including dog sled and horse-drawn sleigh. The entire relay route will cover more than 13,500 miles in 65 days and travel through 46 states before arriving at Olympic Stadium in Salt Lake City for the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 8.