Governor General of Canada David Johnston (right) holds the Canada Winter Games torch as Minster of State (Sport) Bal Gosal looks on

Canada Games set for Prince George, B.C.

Canada Winter Games a 'coming out party' for northern British Columbia

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Many young athletes use the Canada Winter Games as a stepping stone to greater exposure, and this year’s host city hopes to do the same.

Prince George, B.C., is set to welcome 2,400 competitors for 17 days beginning Friday, and Games CEO Stuart Ballantyne says apart from putting on an event featuring some of the country’s premier sporting talent, the community is also looking forward to telling its story.

“I think it’s a real coming out party for northern British Columbia and Prince George,” Ballantyne said in a recent phone interview. “A lot of the country doesn’t really consider what goes on in northern B.C. and this is a great chance to stand up on a soapbox and tell them.”

Athletes will compete in 19 sports, including alpine skiing, snowboarding, hockey, figure skating, curling, badminton, gymnastics, table tennis and synchronized swimming.

Established in 1967 to help celebrate Canada’s centennial and promote national unity, the Games, which alternate every two years between summer and winter editions, feature athletes aged 12 to 35 from all 10 provinces and three territories.

“It’s a unique property in the world,” said Canada Games Council chairman Tom Quinn. “If I was going to put it into context to someone who knew nothing about it I’d say it’s almost like Canada’s junior Olympics.”

Added Ballantyne: “Canada is the only nation that hosts a national Games for athletes of this age and calibre … people should take it in and really be proud of what Canada created in 1967, and we’re proud of what we’re going to deliver.”

Prince George has a population of about 90,000 people, and Ballantyne said some 4,500 volunteers are on board for the event that is expected to leave a number of lasting impressions on the community.

“The Canada Games itself, the movement, is all about legacy,” he said. “The legacy is not just hosting a major event and putting your city on the map, it’s the ability to host other sporting events in the future, the physical legacies in the sport venue upgrades that have been put in place, (and) the human side.”

A former executive with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Ballantyne said planning for the Games has presented some distinct challenges for Price George’s organizing committee.

“We’re 900 kilometres from major cities,” he said. “We’ve basically had to fish off the land from a business perspective and really work with local suppliers, which is a great thing in of itself.”

Speaking of greats, young incarnations of Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Haley Wickenheiser, Catriona Le May Doan, Gaetan Boucher and Steve Nash all took part in past Games, and Ballantyne said new stars will surely emerge from the 2015 edition.

“There no question we’re going to have some of Canada’s future elite athletes,” said Ballantyne, who won two swimming gold medals for B.C. back in 1977. “To some athletes this might be the pinnacles of their careers. For some of them it’s a stepping stone into a university career. Some of them go into international competition, and some of them go into professional sports or even the Olympics.

“It’s hard to predict exactly which ones are going to go on, but it’s great to see them at this age.”

After being on the project for 3 1/2 years, Ballantyne said Friday’s opening ceremony will be the start of an exciting new chapter for both the athletes, and the host city.

“To share northern B.C. with the rest of the nation, and in particular with the participants and their families and everybody else that takes in the Games is very special because it’s that moment in time when Prince George got to stand up and tell people who they are,” said Ballantyne. “It’s a moment in time for those athletes where they’ll remember that maybe a turning point in their sports career happened in Prince George and they’ll always have that connection.”

??P¨????>

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney’s Cascadia Seaweed hopes to float to the top of a growing industry

Food products based on seaweed could hit local shelves in spring 2021

New Oak Bay officer on the traffic beat

Const. Jeff Savoy a ‘top traffic enforcement officer’

Deadline looms to take Esquimalt’s waste stream survey

Township wants residents, business owners’ thoughts on integrated resource management

West Shore Rotary Club raises $20,000 with Golf Ball Drop fundraiser

Nearly 4,000 golf balls poured onto Olympic View golf course Saturday

Construction slows weekend traffic at Millstream overpass

West Shore RCMP recommend Leigh Road exit instead

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read