Rehearsals were taking place at the Enmax Centrium for Fridays Opening Ceremonies for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

Ready, set, go!

2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off Friday night with Opening Ceremonies

Our moment has arrived.

The 2019 Canada Winter Games kick off in style at the Enmax Centrium beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

The doors open at 5 p.m. for the star-studded show featuring more than 600 performers who will celebrate the moments and values of the games.

Award-winning country artist Brett Kissel and Franco-Albertan singer Mireille Moquin are a couple of the notable acts who will launch the games off the starting line.

The opening ceremony will also see the Canada Games torch carried into the Centrium by the final torchbearers. Their identities will be unveiled during the show and their participation will mark the end of the first-ever national games torch relay that began at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 4.

Red Deer cross-country skiing athlete Owen Pimm, 16, was chosen to light the Canada Games torch, which had been paraded through more than 40 communities across Canada by the time it reached Red Deer.

Both the opening and closing ceremonies will be broadcast across Canada on TSN and RDS.

A limited number of opening ceremony tickets will be released Friday. Check for availability and to purchase the limited number of tickets still available for the closing ceremonies on March 2 starting at 6:30 p.m.

Lyn Radford, the irrepressibly enthusiastic games chairwoman, almost seems a little surprised herself that she doesn’t have a case of the nerves.

“You know what, I’m not nervous. Isn’t that interesting?” she said with a laugh.

“I really have the utmost confidence in our team. And I’ve always stressed to everybody that we’re not going to get everything right. But what we can get right is how we react to it all.”

Games organizers have already had to deal with the unforeseen when winter storms to the east delayed flights and left car pool volunteers waiting for hours in airports.

Some drivers, expected to be done ferrying athletes to Red Deer by 9 p.m. on Wednesday, were still at the wheel until almost 2 a.m.

“Some of the VIPS have said to me that it was amazing how friendly and chipper these volunteers were, even though they were delayed,” said Radford.

“That’s the kind of expectations I have of our community and I have no doubt we’re going to meet those expectations.”

Enthusiasm for the games is huge, with Games Passes, Waskasoo Family Passes, Week 1 and Week 2 Sports Passes sold out.

However, to ensure people don’t get left out, single day and sport passes will be available during the games at each venue’s box office. Programs have been also developed for students.

Radford said those wishing to check out a sport can get tickets at the venue 15 minutes before it begins. But she offers an insider tip: for some of the more popular sports, it’s better to get there a little earlier.

“Ringette, that’s one I would suggest they be in line at least half an hour before,” she said. “Another one is boxing; it’s really popular and so is gymnastics.”

The games offer a unique chance to view sports many people have probably not watched up close, such as archery, judo or table tennis.

Table tennis — which features the games’ youngest athlete, a 10-year-old Calgary girl — requires a level of athleticism that may surprise, said Radford.

“It might seem like a quiet sport, but it gets pretty intense and it’s a fast-paced game.”

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