Preparing to carry the torch

Hundreds of Australian communities are preparing to celebrate the journey of the Olympic Torch as it is relayed across the country to Sydney for the opening of the 26th Olympiad. The Torch Relay will commence in the heart of Australia at Alice Springs on 8 June 2000. It will then travel 26,000 kilometres, borne by 10,000 runners, on its way to its destination.

Local Government will play a central role in the torch procession which gives all Australians a chance to participate in this milestone national event. President of the Australian Olympic Committee and Senior Vice President of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG), John Coates AO, said the Torch Relay is a great way of bringing a country together in 'the spirit of Olympism'.

"Hundreds of communities right across Australia will be able to share in the glory of the Olympic spirit by hosting celebrations which reflect the history and character of their region," he said.

At Alice Springs a Local Community Working Group has been convened to coordinate community level planning for the event.

With the participation of the community, Council plans to use the occasion to showcase the area's culture, heritage and environment. Mayor Andy McNeill emphasised no admission fees will be charged to participate.

"Council is committed to involving all community members in developing this special event," he said. "Entry will be free to everyone in Australia."

Another enthusiastic participant is Toowoomba in Queensland. The torch will reach here on June 10, pausing overnight to allow for an evening of celebration.

The Toowoomba Task Force 2000 Committee will act as a catalyst for community involvement. Council and the Task Force will be working over the next year and a half to develop celebration themes, raise awareness and inspire the community into action.

Acting Mayor Peter Wood said Toowoomba is delighted to be part of this wonderful experience. By June 24 the flame will have travelled south to Swan Hill in Victoria where residents are equally keen to celebrate what Mayor Andy Millar describes as a unique event.

"It is an opportunity to witness the symbol of the Olympic spirit, a spirit which inspires the world, promotes international understanding and encourages our youth to strive to achieve their goals," he said. "We encourage everyone to be involved and have an experience to tell their grandchildren about."