Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A day to remember: The Olympic Torch in Bucharest

Last Saturday was one of the days I've never imagined it could happen. But it did. I was a participant of the first Olympic Torch Relay for the Olympic Games held in Romania! It seems weird and improbable, but it's right: Romania is the host nation of this years European Youth Olympic Winter Festival. It means that all the young winter athletes aged under 18 are expected to come here to compete in their winter disciplines. The Festival is held between 17 and 22 of February in Braşov and surrounding Winter Resorts (Predeal, Poiana Braşov, Râşnov, Cheile Grădiştei). More information about this event can be found on the official EYOWF site.

But let's get back to the Olympic Flame. Its journey started on the 2nd of February in Athens, Greece, when it was lit by the sun rays of the Panathenaic marble stadium. It was brought to Bucharest the next day and lit in front of the Romanian Olympic Committee. On the 9th of February, at 12 o'clock, it started it journey through Bucharest, held by almost 70 people, most of them former Romanian Olympic athletes.

I decided I couldn't miss the chance of being there among a lot of Romanian Olympians, who made history for our nation. I knew I wasn't on the list of the torch bearers, but I thought it would not be a problem if I ran besides them. My idea was shared by a few marathoners, so we met at the Romanian Olympic Committee on Saturday. The route passed through the centre of Bucharest, visiting the most important political buildings: the Government - Victoria Palace, the Parliament, the City Hall and the Presidential Palace - Cotroceni, as you can see on the map. Thanks to Ilie Roşu and Florin Simion who carried with them the flags of Romania and the Olympic rings, because the Torch Relay organizers didn't think about that.

The first torch bearer was Ivan Patzaichin, winner of 4 Olympic Golds and 3 Silvers at Canoeing in 4 Summer Olympic Games Editions (1968, 1972, 1980, 1984). He ran for 200 metres, then he handed the Torch to Laura Badea, former Fencing Olympic Champion (Atlanta, 1996). Other torch bearers on the route were: Carmen Bunaciu (one of the greatest Romanian swimmers), Gabriela Szabo (multiple running world champion and 5000 m Olympic Champion at Sidney 2000), Marian Drăgulescu, Marius Urzică, Sandra Izbaşa, Larisa Iordache, Monica Roşu (current and former gymnasts), Violeta Beclea (former runner with Silver at 1500 m at Sidney 2000), Valeria Răcilă van Groningen, Viorica Susanu, Georgeta Andrunache (former rowing Olympic champions), Camelia Potec (Gold at 200 m freestyle swimming in Athens 2004), Alina Dumitru (Judo Olympic champion at Beijing 2008), Alin Moldoveanu (Gold at Shooting at London 2012) and many others.

A lot of photo and video cameras accompanied us during the route, most of them staying in a van in front of us. The bravest photographer of all was Flavia Turcu, who run with her camera and a backpack all the way. I forgot to mention the route was of about 18 km! I found some videos of us on the Internet (I hope you recognize me):

Here is another video from TVR, the Romanian national television.

The following video was made with my phone, when the Torch was leaving the Romanian Government:
It was nice to see the traffic partially restricted for us and running on the streets of Bucharest is always a special feeling. Of course, I prefer to do that when the traffic is totally restricted, because the cars pollute a lot. It was a rare thing that we could run on the Basarab Passage, which is prohibited for pedestrians. In my opinion, we, the amateur marathoners who accompanied the Torch Relay, made it more memorable and fun. At each torch change we acclaimed Hai România!! Bravo!! (Go Romania!! Bravo!!) and clapped our hands or we screamed the Marathoner's Fight Lines, invented by Ilie Roşu: Hip-hip-huraa!! Hip-hip-huraa!! Hip-ura! Hip-ura! Hip-ura-ura-ura! România! Trăiască România!! More details on Ilie's video:
At the end, some of the many pictures of this remarkable event:

(Flavia Turcu)

(Florin Simion)

Our real route was tracked by my Garmin, too (the total time was 3 hours with all the pauses):

It was simply the best day of this year so far! Let the Games begin! :)