The University Record, January 14, 2002

University members help bear Olympic torch through town

By Elizabeth Manasse
University Record intern

Gamble strides through town with pride. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)
The Olympic flame passed through Ann Arbor Jan. 7 on its way across the nation to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and a number of people from the University helped move the torch along. One of the local torchbearers is Dan Gamble, associate director of academic human resources, who was chosen because he embodies the spirit of the Olympics through sport, friendship and leadership, and represents this year’s Torch Relay theme of inspiration.

“In one word, the experience was incredible,” says Gamble. “I felt like I was representing America. My segment almost seemed like a blur because I was so pumped.” Gamble was nominated to be a torchbearer by a student at the Ann Arbor YMCA, where he has been a volunteer fitness instructor for 30 years. Torchbearers were nominated by family, friends and colleagues who wrote short essays describing how each nominee embodied the Olympic spirit by inspiring others. The committee searched for people involved with charitable organizations and in community service activities.

Besides being a volunteer instructor at the YMCA, Gamble also is a mentor for the U-M football program. “I feel a sense of accomplishment by giving my talents and time to an organization I believe in,” says Gamble. Another of Gamble’s hobbies is running. He has participated in 26 marathons and typically runs 35—40 miles each week. Gamble says he was “extremely honored” when notified that he would be one of the few nominees to pass along the Olympic flame.

“It was an extremely emotional experience for many of the torchbearers, but I couldn’t stop smiling or laughing,” says Gamble. “I was overjoyed by the whole experience” Before the torch reached Ann Arbor, Gamble and the other torchbearers had an opportunity to meet and share their inspiring stories.

Crowds lined the streets of Ann Arbor, cheering, clapping, whistling and waving flags. Spectators were welcome to watch runners carrying the torch along the entire stretch of the route. There also were designated gathering areas outside Michigan Stadium, at the corner of Stadium and South Main and at Rampy Chevrolet. “When I returned to Rampy Chevrolet I was practically mobbed by people who wanted their picture taken with an Olympic torchbearer,” says Gamble. “We are all more aware now of how important it is to have freedom and peace. I think that spirit will be reflected during the Games in Salt Lake City.”

Like the other torchbearers, Gamble ran a short segment of the route as it moved from Arborland Mall on Ann Arbor’s east side to Rampy Chevrolet on the west side. The route traveled along Washtenaw Avenue as it turned into Stadium Boulevard, headed north on Main Street, then followed Huron Street and Jackson Avenue until it hit Rampy.

Gamble’s particular segment began shortly after 10 a.m. on S. Main Street at Snyder Avenue. He carried the flame approximately half mile to just before Hill Street Gamble was asked right before his run if he would be willing to carrying the torch for two segments and he gladly accepted.

Other torchbearers from U-M included Regent David Brandon, who carried the torch along a stretch of Washtenaw ending at Sheridan Drive. Brandon feels the Olympics are particularly special this year in light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. “It’s an important moment to focus on citizens from around the world coming together,” said Brandon. Ruth Strang, professor emerita of pediatrics and communicable diseases, felt that carrying the torch was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I felt like a small person in a tremendous network of energetic people of great variety,” said Strang. “The torch relay is so connected with the intentions of the Olympic Games. It’s really strangers coming together as friends.” Catherine Hiltz, research assistant in Psychology Substance Abuse, also represented U-M as a torchbearer. In addition, William Martin, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and the U-M Marching Band participated in ceremonies marking the event.

Gamble and the others carrying the torch through Ann Arbor are only a few of the 11,500 total torchbearers chosen from more than 210,000 nominations nationwide. The Olympic flame was lit on Nov. 19, 2001, in Olympia, Greece and the relay started in

Atlanta, Ga. Dec. 4. The entire route will cover more than 13,500 miles in 65 days, and travel through 46 states before arriving at Olympic Stadium Feb. 8 for the opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City. The Olympic flame travels via torchbearers, cars, trucks, airplane, train, ship, dog sled, a skier, horse-drawn sleigh, snowmobile, ice skaters and a ski jumper.