Share the Flame: The Official Retrospective of the Olympic Torch Relay

Six and a half million Canadians responded to Petro-Canada's advertisements for 6,000 volunteers to carry the Olympic torch around the country. Given this groundswell of enthusiasm, not surprisingly numerous Canadian publishers were interested in documenting the torch's 88 day winter journey to Calgary from St. John's, the longest Olympic torch relay in history.

"We went after this one," says Michael Burch, Petro-Can's approved publisher of Share the Flame: The Official Retrospective of the Olympic Torch Relay (Whitecap$39.95), "Now we've got it, it's like mounting a military campaign."

Burch and his partners at Vancouver's Murray/Love Productions have already earned their battle stripes in the field of 'event publishing' by producing The Expo Celebration (140,000 sold in three months). Now Burch, creative director Derik Murray and project coordinator Martha Love are planning to battle winter, 11,281 kilometres of Canadian geography and an unprecedented deadline to produce Share the Flame.

Photographer Derik Murray will sift through approximately 100,000 images sent to him by courier from 16 touring photographers, plus over 30 regional photographers. Love will manage the logistics of taking a six man caravan across the country. And Burch will aggressively market the product, even selling a pre-Olympic version of the 'instant' book to be available 12 hours before the flame is lit.

"No has ever tried to do what we are doing with Share the Flame," says Burch, "Putting together The Expo Celebration was madness but at least we were covering a stationary event. This time everything is going to be on the move."

In late January, for example, the torch will be detoured through B.C. with overnight stopovers in Courtenay, Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver, Clearbrook, Spuzzum, Ashcroft, Kamloops, Kelowna, Oliver, Greenwood, Warfield, Creston, Cranbrook and Sparwood.

"It will not be 200 photos of people carrying the torch," Murray says, "There will be behind-the-scenes shots of community groups and scenic spreads of Canada." Text will be supplied by journalists from The Calgary Herald.

The hardest and least glamourous task, that of staying with the caravan throughout and initiating specific assignments from town to town, will be Love's. She's researched the history of the Olympic Torch Relay (initiated in the 1930's, not in ancient Greece) and sifted through 7,200 torch-bearer biographies supplied by Petro-Canada.

"I initiated something like 1,500 assignments for The Expo Celebration," she says, "so that won't be new. Mostly it will be difficult coordinating everything in advance." To smooth the way Love has sought advice on cross-Canada touring from an expert -Rick Hansen -who is likely to serve as one of the Olympic torch's 382 'designated carriers'.

With Petro-Canada footing much of the bill, they'll likely receive about half of Burch's planned 50,000 copy first printing. As a rare publisher who is fond of "attacking the marketplace that the bookstores don't reach," Burch is also hopeful that Share the Flame will be adopted by the Lions Club as a fund raising project. This year's world president of the Lions Clubs is a Calgarian and there are two and half thousand Lions Clubs in Canada.

"An event book is not to be compared in the same vein as a normal book," says Burch, "We have to sell it in three months." Meanwhile he's off and running.

[BCBW Spring 1987]