Cape Breton welcomes Olympic flame
Eddie MacDonald considers it a tremendous honor to be one of the torchbearers carrying the Olympic flame through Cape Breton.
He could barely walk the length of a hallway until a lung transplant two years ago.
"I'm a really patriotic Canadian and I'm one of those people who still get goosebumps when I hear the national anthem played," he told CBC News.
"I just think that this is probably one of the greatest honors of my life, outside of maybe my 43-year marriage to my wife and the birth of my children."
The Olympic torch relay kicked off Monday morning in North Sydney after the flame arrived on the ferry from Newfoundland. A handful of people lined Shore Road as the first torchbearers passed by just after 8 a.m.
More than 100 people are set to carry the flame across Cape Breton. Each torchbearer carries the flame for about 300 meters.
MacDonald walked his route in Sydney in order to prepare. The transplant recipient — who turns 67 on Tuesday — said he expected to be a little winded at the end.
"Am I glad to see you," he said, beaming as the next torch bearer met him on the route.
MacDonald said he hopes his time with the torch gives hope to those waiting for organ transplants and inspires others to sign donor cards. He believes the Olympic Games could give people something positive to focus on in difficult times.
"The Games are a wonderful thing and they're happening at a crucial time in our history," he said. "We're going through a terrible recession, we've got a flu pandemic on the go, we got a war going on in Afghanistan. We need a diversion and I think the Games are it."
More than 1,000 people gathered at the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion in Sydney to watch the flame lit on the podium by Lynette Sampson, the final runner of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality segment of the relay.
Sampson, a Special Olympics swimmer from Sydney River, said she was thrilled to be able to carry the torch.
"It felt magnificent, I was so excited and it was just so much of an honor, just an honor to be a torchbearer and to walk," she said.
Among the onlookers was Peter Flemming, who carried the torch for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. His daughter, Christina, who watched her father carry the torch when she was five-years-old, was one of the torchbearers on Monday.
"She had her pink snowsuit on and she held the torch with me back then 22 years ago," said Flemming. "Now she has her turn to carry it and actually, they let me hold the torch with her as we ran along for part of the way, so it was really amazing."
After making its way around Cape Breton, the torch arrived in Port Hawkesbury on Monday evening.
The relay continues on mainland Nova Scotia on Tuesday. Hockey star Sidney Crosby, from Cole Harbour, will be one of the torchbearers on Wednesday when the flame is in Halifax.
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