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Martinsburg on Olympic torch route

December 04, 2000

Martinsburg on Olympic torch route



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Eastern Panhandle will help participate in the 2002 Olympics one year from now when the torch bearing the Olympic flame passes through this city on its way to the games in Salt Lake City.

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"It is the most recognized and endeared symbol of the Olympics," Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said Monday morning as he helped hoist the Olympic Torch Relay flag onto the pole in front of City Hall.

The torch is tentatively scheduled to be carried through Martinsburg on Dec. 20, 2001, the 17th day of a 60-day trek the flame will make across the United States. It is scheduled to arrive in Salt Lake City Feb. 4, 2001.

Local residents may help carry the torch through the community, although applications will not be processed until spring for those who want to run the 1/5 of a mile for each stretch of the relay, said Randy Moore, spokesman for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Moore said 11,500 people will carry the torch across the country.

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There are no specific qualifications. People have even carried the torch in wheelchairs.

"It's something everyone can take part in," Moore said.

The committee tries to find local residents to carry the torch, said John Iafolla, regional manager for Coca-Cola.

"That's the intent," Moore said.

The relay is sponsored by Coca-Cola, Chevrolet and the Olympics. Individuals visited the community recently to evaluate its potential, Moore said. Martinsburg was chosen based on criteria including weather, timing, location and population base, he said. He said he could not elaborate on the specifics of the criteria.

"This is a great opportunity for our community to be selected," said City Manager Mark Baldwin.

The organizing committee notified the city about a month ago it could participate. Officials filled out the paperwork and the announcement was made Monday morning in the 113 cities that had been selected nationwide.

"We were told this would be an excellent small-town, home community to run through," Baldwin said.

A committee will be put together to plan events to accompany the flame. Iafolla said he was living in Columbus, Ohio, when the flame came through there. The city had an 11-hour celebration.

"It's a big festival," Iafolla said. He and other officials described it as "a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Martinsburg hosted the bicycle trials in the 1990s and internationally reknowned bicyclist Lance Armstrong raced here in 1995.

The city should not have to bear much cost to host the event. The city will provide police and other related services as it does for any major civic activity, Karos said.

The exact route of the flame through town has not been chosen, Moore said. The flame will arrive in Cumberland, Md., and leave the next day for Alexandria, Va., and Washington, D.C.

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