Red Deer’s own version of the Olympics is just a short year away.
Excitement is starting to build at the prospect of having 3,600 athletes, 400 coaches and supporters from across the country arriving in Red Deer next Feb. 15 for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, said host society chair Lyn Radford.
Residents are invited to experience the thrill first hand at the One Year Out celebration at Bower Ponds tonight from 6 to 8, with free skate rentals, hot chocolate activities, and fireworks.
With 19 sporting competitions happening over 18 days, the 2019 Games will be like very much like hosting our own Olympics, said 2019 Canada Winter Games committee CEO Scott Robinson.
The expansive event will actually feature more athletes and more sports than are at the Winter Olympics in Korea.
“They have 14 sports, we’ll have 19,” Robinson added.
The Games will certainly feature Olympic-calibre sporting talent, said Radford, who noted the stars of the 2019 Canada Winter Games will become the Olympians of tomorrow.
In fact, 14 out of the 22 women’s hockey team players now competing at the Korean Olympics took part in the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games is the largest sporting event Red Deer has ever hosted – more sweeping in scope, logistics and economic impact than either The Brier or Skate Canada – two of the most high-profile sporting events held here in the past.
To put it in perspective, Robinson said Skate Canada required about 1,200 volunteers, while the 2019 Canada Winter Games will need more than 5,000.
With just a year to go to Games time, “the community will now become the propeller for this massive effort,” added Radford, who pointed out there will be many opportunities for volunteers, donors and sponsors to climb on board.
About $14 million is needed to build, renovate or adapt local sporting venues for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Federal, provincial and municipal partnerships have helped pay for these projects, but committees have also been busy with fundraising and sponsorships to cover the rest of the costs.
“We’re about halfway there,” said Radford, who noted $6 to $7 million more still has to be raised – and she’s confident it can be done, even in this still tight economy, with redoubled efforts at getting sponsorships and donations.
There are four ways to give: a $50,000-plus sponsorship (which comes with naming rights), a Friends-of-the-Games donation ($10,000 to $49,999) which comes with tickets and merchandise, a plaque-worth donation (for building of the Games plaza) or contributing to the Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off.
The Games website, canadagames.ca/2019/, is also about to start accepting applications from people who are willing to volunteer their time — from helping at the opening and closing festivals, to assisting at the athlete’s village, in food services, transportation, IT, and at various sporting venues.
Excitement “has really ramped up” since Christmas time, when Games merchandise sold beyond expectations, said Radford. She believes it will grow to a fever pitch once this year ends and 2019 becomes a reality.