Olympic torch comes through Tacoma

Rain, cold temperatures and biting winds couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who turned out yesterday afternoon to see the Olympic torch come through downtown Tacoma.

The Olympic torch spent about two hours in Tacoma as part of its 65-day relay through America on its way to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Metropolitan Development Council’s Doug Swansberg carried the flame along Broadway to Theatre on the Square Park where a celebration featuring a 2002 Salt Lake City Organizing Committee representative, two past Olympic gold medal winners and the city’s mayor was held.

Flanked by gold medal-winning boxers “Sugar” Ray Seales (1972) and Leo Randolph (1976), Mayor Bill Baarsma said, “It’s truly an honor for me to be here today.”

Baarsma likened the City of Tacoma to the Olympic torch runners, saying the city is determined and has overcome a lot.

“The real winners here are the ones carrying the torch,” Baarsma told the crowd.

The Stadium High School Band entertained bystanders, hot dogs, apple pie and soda were sold by the business district and American and Olympic flags were handed out to the crowd by neighborhood council members and Olympic torch officials during the celebration.

“This is for Tacoma-Pierce County – you rock!” KING 5 news anchor Lori Matsukawa said before taking the torch from the park and carrying it up St. Helens Avenue to hand it off to “Evening Magazine” host John Curley at Sixth and St. Helens avenues.

Through more cheering throngs of people, the torch relay made its way through the North End onto Ruston Way, leaving on board a tugboat to Des Moines from the dock at Fireboat Station No. 5.

The torch eventually ended its 49th day in Seattle.

The Olympic torch began its cross-country journey on Dec. 4 in Atlanta, Ga., host city of the 1996 Summer Olympics and the most recent held in the United States.

The torch is scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8.

By the time it gets there, the torch will have been carried by over 11,500 people during the 13,500-mile trip.