2019 Canada Winter Games: Unity through sport

An incredible Closing Ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games on March 2. Photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games

One last reflection as we close the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Although I was confident that we would do a good job on delivering the basics of the Games and providing all that was needed for the athletes, there was always this vision that maybe we could do more for the community through the Games. The Games was a unique opportunity where we could really make an impact and maybe, just maybe, we could bring a renewed sense of unity and cohesiveness to our community.

The Board of Governors, through community consultation, developed a vision, mission and set of values to guide the operational aspects of the Games. Strong words were used in the building these statements. Words like life-shaping, bold, innovative, sustainability, inclusion, shared energy and lasting legacies.

As I watched the Prairie Pavilion at the Westerner fill up this past Sunday afternoon for a Team 2019 thank you, I realized that we had accomplished that sense of unity, cohesiveness and belonging to an even greater extent than anticipated.

At the event, we saw waysigns for various venue groups created to help direct their fellow venue volunteers to where their group was gathering in the large room. We saw the younger generation moving from their secured tables to allow seniors or those with accessibility needs have a table, while they stood. We saw volunteers who were strangers before February 15, dancing with each other and shedding tears of joy in appreciation of the life-shaping experience they had just shared.

Were our plans bold? I’d say so! Look at the Festival site and the ingenious setup there – tents to welcome all from the cold, performances to reflect the diversity of our nation and a gathering space to share cultural experiences. From local musicians to renowned Canadian musical talent, artists were featured on the Nossack Community Stage and Chandos Mainstage. Did our own Red Deer Symphony Orchestra not put on a great performance?

Were our plans inclusive? From having sports that included para and Special Olympic events to gender equality in our broadcasting, we practised what we visioned in having one of the best inclusive sport competitions. Then, we challenged ourselves to see what we could do for our marginalized community members – from the Mitts for Many program, that brought in a whopping 3,000 pairs of mitts, toques and scarves, to providing food for a hot meal everyday at Mustard Seed.

Not only did we show sustainability through the social agencies, but we were mindful of the environment and planted 2,019 trees to help offset any carbon footprint, we reduced our printing quantities by 50 per cent compared to previous Games by promoting digital versions versus paper as much as possible, we reused decor from venue to venue and had a roving Green Team collect drink containers at the festival to support local organizations.

Shared energy was created through the remarkable partnerships we developed. Red Deer College was a force to be reckoned with. Their all in, buy in to the 2019 philosophy vibrated throughout their organization, which was evident not only in the Gary W, Harris Canada Games Centre, but throughout their total campus. The Red Deer Public School District and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools shared their buses and rearranged their academic schedule to allow for families to enjoy this event. The City of Red Deer worked hard to make this a safe, welcoming community and showcase their incredible facilities. This energy transferred right through to the volunteers that worked in those venues. These are just a few examples of the organizations that contributed to the Games experience for the central Alberta community and all participants.

I think the brightest star, though, was the lasting legacy of community cohesiveness – we saw sport buffs working alongside artists and cultural supporters. We saw the young working with the old. We saw smiling faces no matter where we went and we saw hugs, laughter and shared tears of joy.

Yes, central Alberta, we all came together and delivered a bold, innovative, life-shaping experience, as we saw our community perfectly reflected in the catchphrase – Unity Through Sport!

Lyn Radford

2019 Games Board Chair

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