2010 Flashback: Longtime travelling Olympic fan beats odds for 2010

With the 10th anniversary of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, we are looking back at some of the stories that were making the news in the Courier during those 17 days in February.

This story was originally published Feb. 12, 2010

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Last summer, Kitsilano resident Imre “Jimmy” Weidinger was told by his doctors he only had a short time to live.

A fervent Olympic fan who for decades travelled the globe to see the Games in person, he wasn’t sure he would live to see them come to Vancouver. On Thursday night, he was getting ready to watch the Olympic torch go by.

“Now that it’s in my hometown I hope to be able to enjoy it,” said Weidinger, who has lived in Vancouver for 52 years.

He hopes to attend one of the women’s hockey games at the University of British Columbia and plans to be out meeting people during the Games. However, Weidinger, 76, has myeloma—cancer of the white blood cells—and cannot get around easily. His condition is terminal.

“I’m mobile but I know my limits.”

He has attended 13 Olympics since 1960, from the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. to the Summer Games in Athens, Greece in 2004.

Weidinger, a retired Vancouver Park Board employee, was an avid swimmer in his youth and attended all the Summer Games possible, except for Moscow in 1980. His mother, who was also passionate about swimming, taught him and his five siblings to swim in the Danube River in Hungary, where he was born.

Political repression that Weidinger experienced in his homeland led to his urge to travel the globe and follow the Games.

“It was not a happy life,” he explained. “It was difficult during the occupations [by Germany and Russia].”

He hopes to trade some of the pins he’s collected over the years with visitors to Vancouver and wants to give away a book about the Winter Games that he got in Lake Placid, New York.

“I intend to give it away to a young American fan, to show my hospitality.”

He missed the Beijing Summer Games in 2008 because he was too sick to go. He had been traveling through New Zealand in 2007 when he fell ill and was diagnosed in January 2008.

At press time Thursday, Weidinger was planning to watch the torch run as it came through Kitsilano from GNK Insurance Services on Broadway and Blenheim Street. Owner Sal Audia held a pizza party for his staff and invited Weidinger, who had been a client for 25 years, to join them.

Last summer, Weidinger told Audia he had only a short time left to live and didn’t think he would make it to the 2010 Olympics. Audia had given him tickets to a soccer game in August and told him he had to make it till then.

Earlier this week, with the Games hours away, they had coffee. Another Kitsilano resident, Lorne “Ace” Atkinson, was also glad that the torch run would be going through his neighbourhood. Atkinson competed as a cyclist in the 1948 London Summer Games, which were Weidinger’s initial inspiration back in Hungary to follow the Olympics once he was able to leave the country.

Atkinson, who represented the Canadian team at three events, opened Ace Cycles in Kitsilano in 1946 and became a legend among city cyclists. Atkinson is now 88 and has difficulty breathing, so the torch run was the only event he could experience. He was hoping the torchbearer would acknowledge him in some way, he said in an interview Wednesday.

“I’ll be poking my nose out the door. I’ll see if I can get a picture with the runner.”

NOTE: Imre “Jimmy” Weidinger died on Jan. 15, 2013

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