14-year-old holds ‘history in my hands’
You have to love the ingenuity of kids.
When 14-year-old Chris Parrish of Elizabeth saw a television advertisement about how to nominate someone to be an Olympic Torch Runner, he had the perfect person in mind.
Parrish, an eighth grader at South Central Junior-Senior High School, went to the family computer, punched up “cocacola.com” on the Internet and typed a 100-word essay about why this special individual should be one of the lucky few to carry the Olympic Flame.
He wrote that his heroes were Mrs. Laura McDermott, a South Central elementary teacher, and Michael Jordan. “I put her because she always helps out and takes the extra time to tutor kids after school, and Jordan because he’s a good basketball player and always gives a good effort no matter what,” Parrish said.
“I just sent it in. I never thought I’d win though, especially being from a small town like Elizabeth.”
That’s right: the resourceful youngster nominated himself.
Parrish was selected from thousands of entries to have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to carry the Olympic Torch two-tenths of a mile on its 13,500-mile journey from Greece to Salt Lake City, Utah.
He received a confirmation form that his entry had been picked and returned it in August. The form said that he was a possible winner, but to not spread the word because things could change at the last minute. He heard a more definitive word in September that he was a winner. Coca-Cola provided Parrish with an Olympic Torchbearer uniform consisting of a windbreaker jacket, long sleeve T-shirt, wind pants, fleece hat and gloves.
The memorable event took place Sunday morning in Bowling Green, Ky. After stopping off at a “collection center” to gather other runners, a shuttle bus took Parrish and several Torch carriers to their starting points. Along the way, the bearers were supposed to talk about how they got nominated.
“I was the only one who had nominated himself,” Parrish said. “The other people thought that was pretty funny and a pretty good idea. They were all very friendly. Everyone down there was friendly.”
His run began at approximately 10:44 a.m. and lasted just a couple of minutes. Luckily, a break in day-long precipitation came while Parrish carried the Olympic Flame.
“The man who passed the flame to me was 92 years old, and he ran the entire way. I thought that was pretty neat. Then they used an Allen wrench to turn on the fuel in my torch, and we put the torches together, and the flame just looked like it jumped over to mine.
“I took off running, and it was really neat how people were cheering and waving for me and the flame. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Parrish said. “They had a runner next to us in case the Torch got too heavy, so they would hold it. It started to at the end, but I did OK with it.”
Among those accompanying him on the journey were his parents, Debbie and David Parrish.
At the end of his run, Parrish handed the flame to a middle-aged man. Torch officials took the light from the youngster, shut off the fuel and blew out the flame. They took his Torch back to the collection center where the fuel was dispensed, and then gave the 33-inch, three-pound piece of history to Parrish as a priceless keepsake.
“You could also buy one that had your name engraved for $335,” Parrish said. “I’ll just keep this one and get a stand for it. This is history in my hands.”
The 2002 Olympic Torch Relay is an overwhelming production, encompassing some 11,500 Torchbearers from 210,000 nominations, 46 states, 13,500 miles of cross-country travel over 65 days, thousands of workers and volunteers, and countless man hours before the flame arrives in Salt Lake City for Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 8. The Torch will travel an average of 208 miles every 12 hours. The flame will be kept in a lantern traveling with the relay, guarded closely to ensure that the flame will not be extinguished. A Torch will be lighted from the flame each morning to start that day’s relay.
In addition to the Torchbearers, who will carry the Torch for approximately 17 percent of the distance, the flame will be transported by automobile, airplane, train, ship, dog sled, skier, horse-drawn sleigh, snowmobile, ice skaters, prairie schooner and other unique modes. The Torch also will take a spin around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Jan. 8 and visit 80 cities in all.
The 2002 Olympic Torch is about three pounds, 33 inches long; three inches wide at the top and a half-inch wide at the bottom. It is made of silver, copper and glass, and is designed to look like a mountain icicle.
Relay workers use a specially designed key to turn on a Torch’s fuel source. A butane/propane mixture is used to produce a bright flame that burns between 10 to 14 inches high. The flame is passed from one Torch to another when Torches are brought within 3 to 6 inches of each other. The average time it takes a Torchbearer to complete a 0.2-mile segment of the relay is eight minutes. A Torch will burn approximately 27 minutes.
The Torch was designed by Sam Shelton, a professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech who also designed the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Torch, which was partly made at the Louisville Slugger factory. It was designed to withstand weather ranging from minus-40 degrees, gusty wind and heavy rain, said Shelton.
The design of the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Torch was unveiled on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22, 2001, by Mitt Romney, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC). The Torch design is meant to be consistent with SLOC’s official 2002 theme, “Light the Fire Within,” as well as the fire-and-ice symbolism of the Salt Lake City Winter Games.
About 11,500 Torches will be produced, and the Torchbearers will have the option of purchasing the Torch for $335.
The key elements that comprise the Torch are glass, aged silver finish, high-polish silver and copper. The glass represents light, winter and ice; the aged silver finish represents the West and dripping water; high-polish silver symbolizes the heart and speed of athletes; and copper represents fire, passion and Utah’s history.
A neat feature of the Torch: The copper and glass will undergo physical changes as they interact with the flame, giving each Torch a unique appearance, so that no two Torches will be the same, just as no two stories of inspiration from the Games will be identical. Also, the center section of the Torch has an aged, slightly time-worn finish and the bottom of the Torch has a clean, high-polish finish. Torchbearers will hold the Torch at the junction of these two surfaces, representing the bridging of past and present.
Among the Torchbearers will be Lyz Glick, the wife of Jeremy Glick, one of the passengers aboard United Flight 93, which crashed Sept. 11 in Pennsylvania after passengers apparently struggled with hijackers. She is to carry the Torch Dec. 23 in New York.