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Teen first to be named a torch bearer

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TORONTO—A Grade 12 student from Vancouver will step out onto the streets and into Olympic history as one of thousands of Canadians who will take part in the torch relay for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Patricia Moreno was the first person named by Coca-Cola as a torch bearer for the relay at an event held yesterday by the Olympic sponsor.

While she won’t necessarily be the first to hoist the torch when the relay for the Vancouver Olympics begins later this year, the 18-year-old is the first person named for one of the coveted spots on the route.

Moreno will be one of 12,000 torch bearers taking part in the longest domestic journey ever for the Olympic flame—spanning some 45,000 km over 106 days. Each is slated to carry the torch about 400 metres.

Moreno said she hadn’t quite grasped the significance of her role in the historic relay.

“I think I’m going to feel like 100 million times more special that day. I don’t think I truly realize how big this is yet,” she said following a news conference.

“I’m really excited and I’m nervous at the same time.”

Moreno earned her shot by signing up for Sogo Active, a national community-based active living program for youth aged 13-19 organized by Coke and ParticipAction.

Now, Coke is inviting more Canadians to share their stories of how they’re living active and “green” lives to apply for a chance to be an Olympic torch bearer.

A national red ribbon panel of experts assembled by Coke in the fields of health, wellness, and environmental sustainability will make recommendations on which Canadians will carry the flame.

Organizations taking part on the panel include the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, ParticipAction, WWF Canada, as well as the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics.

A random draw at iCoke.ca will determine the 6,760 applicants who will move ahead to the story-writing phase of the “Live Active, Live Green” contest.

Entrants will write a short essay on how they’ve had a positive impact on themselves or the lives of others through the environment or active healthy living.

Of those submissions, Coca-Cola said the panel will recommend about 1,100 as torch bearers. However, under the official rules and regulations section for the contest on iCoke.ca, it currently states judges will select the top 676 submissions.

Coke said more details on how to apply for remaining spots will follow.

David Moran, director of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola Canada, said more than six million people applied to carry the torch for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary and they expect the same number this time.

He said organizers hope the legacy of the contest will be that Canadians really change their behaviour.

“It’s not about being the super-athlete,” he stressed. “For Coca-Cola, it’s going to be the everyday person that’s making a difference not only in their lives but in the lives of the people that they live or work with or go to the school with.

“We’re not going to have Olympic athletes carrying for us. It’s going to be every person that is going to be able and eligible to carry the torch for us.”

The torch relay will kick off Oct. 30 in Victoria.

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