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Olympic Flame Begins Relay Through Indiana

June 3, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The Olympic flame, continuing its 15,000-mile journey, headed from Chicago to Gary, Ind., on Monday and will leave Tuesday morning for Indianapolis, which has long billed itself as the nation’s amateur sports capital.

``The purpose of the torch run is to show off the best of the United States,″ said Jack Hensley of Indianapolis, one of the runners carrying the flame through Indiana. ``This is a great country. Winding from the West Coast to the East Coast and back down to Atlanta, it’s a great opportunity to show off just what America is made of, and that’s people that give of themselves.″

Nationwide, 10,000 torchbearers are taking part in the 84-day relay, which began April 27 in Los Angeles and ends July 19 in Atlanta, the site of the Olympic Games.

``More than anything else, it’s to recognize community heroes,″ said Jerry Harkness, co-chairman of the local torch committee. ``Obviously, it’s got a history going back to Greece. But I’d like to think of it modernly as people of everyday life of all nationalities being recognized for giving back to the community.

``There’s been so much negative regarding our country and in some cases rightfully so. But there’s some good parts of our country,″ said Harkness, a former Indiana Pacers player who works for the United Way charities. ``All are excited about being Americans, being a part of this tradition, the Olympics. It’s a good feeling. And it brings back that opportunity for people to say `I am glad to be an American.‴

The relay is scheduled to pass through cities including Merrillville, Rensselaer, Lafayette and Frankfort before reaching the northwest side of Indianapolis about 6:30 p.m. Among the runners shortly after that will be Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.

The relay will continue through Indianapolis, make a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway about 9 p.m. and head downtown for a rally at Monument Circle about 10 p.m. The Pacers’ Reggie Miller is scheduled to participate in the Circle celebration, although he is not listed as a runner.

Hensley, 66, also carried the torch through Indianapolis before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

This is the first time for David Owens, 36.

``I called myself an athlete when I was in college,″ said Owens, who played football at Howard University and now is a compliance monitor for federal contracts for the city of Indianapolis.

``As an older person who will see no more glory days as an athlete, here’s some way that I can touch the Olympics,″ Owens said. ``It’s a chance to represent the country. We’re all from the community, we do things for the community and here’s a chance to share in a once-in-a-lifetime event. It gives everybody a chance to see what the Olympics are about, the tradition ... And then share that with the community.″

Among the other torch-carriers will be Owens’ 75-year-old grandmother, Tracy Ford.

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