The first week of the 2019 Canada Winter Games was a big success, says board chair Lyn Radford. (Photo courtesy 2019 CANADA WINTER GAMES FLICKR)

First week of a life-shaping experience

It is hard to describe all the emotions of the last week. I think I can mostly compare it to Christmas preparations, only on a much larger scale. As each event has unfolded, it has been like taking the most beautiful wrapping off a gift and discovering that what is underneath is even more impressive.

First, the gift of team. It has come wrapped with the largest red bow, with thousands of tiny sparkles, each representing the staff and volunteers that have come together to make this show one of everlasting moments. It began when you walked into the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel for the Hall of Honour on February 14, where five impactful Canada Games alumni were inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour and provided us with glowing examples of how strong athlete development opportunities can morph into impactful contributing community citizens. Cindy Klassen, Jennifer Heil, Bruny Surin, Jami Drake (on behalf of her father, the late Clare Drake) and Elizabeth Cannon shared stories of their athletic careers and how sport has now prepared them for life’s challenges.

Volunteers and staff have been incredible, braving the cold to deliver the warmest welcome to all. I cannot say enough of the immeasurable pride I feel about our community and their amazing capacity to make a positive experience happen for all.

The next gift was the Opening Ceremony. From the opening welcome from Mayor Tara Veer to the last chords of Brett Kissel’s song, we were entertained with a spectacle our community has never seen before. The production rivalled some of the best ceremonies produced in the world, not just our country.

The next gift is the athletes and coaches themselves. They have been pouring their heart and soul into their competitions, giving us some heartstopping competitive moments, some elations of the win and some disappointment of the loss. But the most significant gift they have shown us is the examples of sportsmanship and compassion where they have uplifted or consoled their fellow competitor after the event. With youth like we’ve seen this week, we are in good hands when it’s their turn to run the country.

Another gift is the thousands of spectators that have descended upon the venues to cheer, encourage and applaud the sport competitions. Many events have been sold out and many events giving the athletes the experience of performing in front of huge crowds, something they probably never experienced before, a true testament to the appreciation of the level of athletic development they have achieved.

An extraordinary gift unwrapped so far is the incredible 52° North Music + Cultural Festival, presented by ATB and ATCO. This festival comes to us from the progressive vision and central Alberta’s “can-do” attitude of the organizers. From the City of Red Deer’s ice and snow play park to the sponsor activations of hot chocolate, photo booths and Nossack Community Stage to the never-before-seen gift of the heated dome with the Chandos mainstage and headline musical talent, we have been feted well.

We found another gift, carefully wrapped with love and compassion through the tremendous engagement in the Mitts for Many Program and Shaw’s Gold medal donation Program. We have watched hundreds of athletes, coaches, spectators and families bring their gifts of mitts, toques or scarfs to be given to and distributed by the Mustard Seed to wrap our homeless with warmth both physically and emotionally.

The Shaw Gold Medal Program is donating $150 for every Gold medal to the winners choice of a local charity. How incredible it is to engage these young winners into the warm feeling of giving back to community.

Week one has given central Albertans and our visitors so many gifts of memories. It is hard to choose the best and even harder to narrow down the list to a few to speak about. I hope you will get out and enjoy week two. I look forward to finding more hidden gems of the 2019 Canada Winter Games! This is our moment.

Lyn Radford, Board Chair

2019 Canada Winter Games

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