His greatest fear is that a gust of wind will blow the Olympic flag across his face, leaving him feeling disoriented and helpless. And then, to the horror of the 70,000 people watching in the stadium and the hundreds of millions taking it in on television, Vancouver's mayor plunges off the stage in his wheelchair.Sam Sullivan is an amazing man, and not because he's an active quadriplegic. I know lots of those, and believe it or not, they're not amazing by definition. He's an incredibly dedicated and tireless person, who has devoted his life to improving the world around him. I'll feel tremendous pride for Canada, and for people with disabilities everywhere, when Sullivan takes the stage in Turin on Sunday night.
"That would not be good," Sam Sullivan said in Turin yesterday.
No, Sam, that would definitely not be good.
Mr. Sullivan discussed his possible nightmare as he revealed to the international press how he plans to accept the Olympic flag from the mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino, during the closing ceremony of the 20th Winter Games on Sunday.
As most of Canada knows, Mr. Sullivan is a quadriplegic. Soon after he won the mayor's job last November, many wondered how he would fulfill one of the key obligations of the position -- travelling to Turin to accept the Olympic flag from its mayor. The handoff is an Olympic ritual dating back to the Winter Games in Oslo in 1952.
Being in a wheelchair and having minimal use of his hands, Mr. Sullivan doesn't have the strength to hold the flag or wave it around the way most mayors do after the handoff. But letting someone fill in for him was not something he considered even for a minute.
This was a 46-year-old guy, after all, who drove a car, skippered a sailboat and flew an ultralight aircraft. Carrying a flag the size of a king-size bed is, by comparison, a piece of cake.
The front page of today's Globe and Mail features a story on Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, and his Olympic task this weekend.