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Our turn to carry the torch

To many runners, the most compelling part of carrying the Winter Olympics torch will come as they dart along their routes toting the legendary flame.

Yet Portland torch carrier Julie Stott says the date she really anticipates is Feb. 8, more than two weeks after she performs her transporting duties on Jan. 22.

That's when the flame will arrive in Salt Lake City's Olympic Stadium. It's also when Stott, who plans to watch the ceremony on television with her family, believes that the magnitude of her Portland task will hit her.

'It'll be very special, knowing that I carried it, watching it be run into the stadium,' said Stott, who earned the torch-bearing right by virtue of her philanthropy work. 'I'm not sure why, but that'll be more emotional than carrying the torch itself.'

Stott is one of more than 40 local runners who will maneuver the torch through the city. Organizers of a massive Olympics celebration expect the torch to arrive at Pioneer Courthouse Square about 7:45 p.m. on Jan. 22.

The eight-mile Portland stretch is part of the torch's 65-day, 13,500-mile journey from Olympia, Greece. The torch, lit Nov. 19, will have moved through 46 states before arriving in Salt Lake City, where the Winter Olympics take place from Feb. 8 to Feb. 24.

The list of torchbearers is impressive and varied. Heading the roll is Karen Gaffney, a Portland woman with Down syndrome who swam the English Channel as part of a relay team. Gaffney recently received an associate's degree from Portland Community College and will work as a teacher's aide.

Joining Gaffney are civic volunteers Robin Adcock and Dennis Bromka, longtime community leader Peter Charlston, cancer researcher Dr. Brian Druker, vision-impaired student Joshua Grace and schools supporter Emily Harden.

Others include businessman and baseball backer Len Bergstein, writer Julie Dixon, Melvin Mark Cos. President Scott Andrews, KGW anchor Tracy Barry and wheelchair-bound bicycling advocate John Benenate.

The group includes several noteworthy scholars: North Portland standout Tremaine Thompson; tenacious gymnast Jessica Carlascio; straight-A student Justin Christiansen; recent medical school grad John Foland; and Andrew Holland, a 13-year-old who beat leukemia.

The torchbearers also include several teachers and youth workers: Cathi Conner, Kathleen Herman, Katie Sangster, Jason Wells and Lee Jenkins.

Many runners were nominated by their children and spouses simply for being exceptional parents: Paula Graf, David Larsell, Rebecca Moore and Chris Safely. Others will demonstrate their courage in surviving potentially fatal diseases and horrifying accidents: Alex Laws, Cyndi Levine, Kim Pulido and Nathan Spear.

Others faced daunting challenges as well: Paula Lucas escaped oppression in the Middle East; Nicole Lapp was a mission worker in Mexico; and avid athlete Rebecca Pardoe was nominated by a neighbor who noted that Pardoe 'gave up competing after she had triplets.'

Finally, there's John Twitchell, nominated by his father 'for having strong morals, standards and beliefs and refusing to give in to negative influence.'

Long-held dream

The arrival of the torch in Portland is the result of the yearlong efforts of Sho Dozono, president and chief executive officer of Azumano Travel and one of the city's most ardent boosters. Dozono raised the $20,000 necessary to ensure the flame would make a stop here on its way from Salem to Seattle.

Dozono, who earned raves for organizing the post-Sept. 11 excursion to New York City by Portlanders, began his drive after the city declined to host the torch run. Working with the Portland Oregon Sports Authority, he began hitting up businesses for cash. He even joked that if no one participated, he'd pay to bring the torch to Portland himself.

Dozono needn't have worried. He and the sports authority raised more than enough to cover such necessities as police escorts along the running route and Pioneer Square security measures.

As a reward for his efforts, Dozono will tote the torch on one of its segments.

Acknowledging the athletes

The Pioneer Square celebration, featuring appearances by several past Oregon Olympians, will run from 5 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will host a torch 'kickoff celebration' from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. at OMSI.

At about 5:45 p.m., the torch and its carriers will leave OMSI, weave around the Lloyd Center district, travel across the Steel Bridge into Northwest Portland and go past PGE Park and Lincoln High School.

From there, the flame will make its way to Portland State University before buzzing through downtown en route to the square.

Sponsors of the Olympic torch relay's Portland stop include the sports authority, Association for Portland Progress, Pioneer Courthouse Square, KGW (8), radio stations KEX (1190 AM) and KKCW (103 FM) and the Portland Tribune.

Portland torch carriers were selected based on 'how the nominees embodied the Olympic spirit and provided inspiration to their community,' according to the sports authority. Olympic committee organizers joined judges from Chevrolet and Coca-Cola in determining the flame's conveyors.

One carrier, Craig Berkman, is actually doing torch duty for the second time. Berkman, one of the area's leading venture capitalists and a former state Republican Party chairman, manned a leg on the 1996 Summer Olympics torch's path to Atlanta.

'I'm one of the few people in the United States who's had this privilege twice,' Berkman said. 'To be able to carry it for the Winter Games, after doing it for the Summer Games, is something of which I'm very proud.'

Berkman said he's long admired Winter Games athletes because of their discipline and courage.

'They have the tenacity to train in silence year in and year out, with little fanfare or acknowledgment other than meeting their personal challenges,' he said. 'Carrying the torch is really a good opportunity to acknowledge their contribution to our national life.'

Randy Miller, who'll carry the torch on one of its final legs before it hits the square, agrees, noting that Portlanders were selected to carry the torch largely because of their strong civic support.

'The organizers wanted to acknowledge community involvement,' said Miller, who is chairman of the sports authority. 'Everyone running in Portland has a passion for their community.'

Miller, who's 5 feet 6 inches tall, said organizers sent him an extra-large uniform.

'I'll be running north on Southwest Fourth Avenue, and by the time I get to Washington Street, my uniform will be on Alder,' he joked.

Miller further chuckled that the few blocks (each member carries the torch approximately 0.2 miles) of torch-carrying duty will go a long way toward helping him train for April, when he runs in the Boston Marathon. 'Yeah, that'll be great practice,' he said with a laugh.

Stott, a board member of several nonprofits and the wife of Crown Pacific Chief Executive Officer Peter Stott, said she's looking forward to running with her daughter, Preston, who'll serve as a 'support runner' during the jaunt. Support runners accompany the primary torchbearers along the route.

'Having her there will make it very special,' Stott said. 'The excitement about it is clearly carrying across all lines.'

Contact Andy Giegerich at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .