The front page of today's Globe and Mail features a story on Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, and his Olympic task this weekend.
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.

"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.
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.


Amateur said...

Mr. Sullivan was on The Current this morning as well, which is being guest-hosted by Canadian athlete Jeff Adams (his blog, adamsmania).

laura k said...

Thanks, Amateur. I know Jeff Adams, didn't know he had a blog. Great.

Scott M. said...

If you want to listen, cbc.ca has feeds from across the country and The Current starts now (9:36), 10:36 and 11:36 in Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver respectively.

Scott M. said...

And, of course, you can also listen to the segments anytime after noon on The Current's website.

Amateur said...

Well, maybe "blog" is a bit of an exaggeration. Four posts since the last summer Olympics! Anyway, I am impressed by his skills as a radio host.

Now for something a little bit touchy ... The last two Friday Currents were also hosted by Olympic athletes Therese Brisson (so-so) and Mark Tewkesbury (pretty good).

I have become a big fan of CBC radio. And I know that the Mother Corp. has a mandate to cover issues that other radio outlets won't. But this series of 'Olympic editions' of The Current has been very, well, I don't know the word.

Mark Tewkesbury spent a lot of his show talking about issues facing gay athletes and gay Canadians in general.

Therese Brisson spent most of her show talking about issues facing female athletes and coaches.

Now Jeff Adams gets a slot and spends a lot of his show talking about athletes and other people with disabilities.

There's nothing wrong with that, and it's great to get those messages out there. But does it have to be so narrowly focussed? So agenda-driven? So ... politically correct?

I also should admit that I did not know, until today, that the mayor of Vancouver was quadriplegic. Embarassing (for me, I mean).

(and you mis-spelled Olympic)

Scott M. said...

I also should admit that I did not know, until today, that the mayor of Vancouver was quadriplegic. Embarassing (for me, I mean).

That's all right, the media didn't make a big deal of it at the time. A few talk shows in BC brought up the topic of accepting the flag... that's about all.

As far as "the Current" is concerned, they have had guest hosts on Fridays for a long while, and they always "theme" the show around them. Preston Manning talked almost exclusively about western alienation. Shelia Copps talked about the state of the Liberal Party. The list is huge.

Hence it makes sense for them to focus their "Olympic" series in the same fashion.

Personally, however, I almost always find the friday version of the Current boring after a half-hour and tune out, so I'm not a fan of the format either. The only time I'll stay glued to the radio is when they are focusing on a topic near-and-dear to my heart.

laura k said...

Scott, thanks for The Current links and info.

I also should admit that I did not know, until today, that the mayor of Vancouver was quadriplegic. Embarassing (for me, I mean).

It shouldn't be. It's actually excellent you didn't know - it means it's being accepted and not considered freakish. Like not knowing someone is gay, unless it's relevant to the discussion.

I'm way impressed that the mayor of Canada's third largest city is disabled, but that's a special interest of mine.

Genet said...

I agree that it is great that people (including myself) were unaware of Mr. Sullivan's disability. I think that his appearance in Turin may do much to change people's perceptions, especially in countries that have less successfully integrated disabled people or provided opportunities for all their citizens.

Wrye said...

Sam Sullivan is better known for his (rightwing) politics, even within BC--it simply doesn't come up in coverage of him very often at all. Which is to the good, I think. We're much more interested in what kind of mayor he is and will be. (prediction: rightwing) I had no idea he was quadripeligic until he was elected, as far as I can recall.

laura k said...

We're much more interested in what kind of mayor he is and will be.

Absolutely as it should be. You can't imagine how much his visible presence means to people with disabilities. I interviewed a kid from Bellingham, WA, the other day. He goes up to Vancouver for adaptive sports, and he was falling all over himself to tell me about Sullivan.

I hope he doesn't suck as a mayor!