Reece Lehman, a Red Deer volleyball player and member of Team Alberta, carries the games torch at the close of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg. (Contributed photo)

Updated: Torch, flag passed to Red Deer from Winnipeg as Canada Games draws near

Red Deer volleyball player Reece Lehman received the ceremonial torch

The countdown to the start of the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer hit 18 months with the closing ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg.

The Canada Summer Games wrapped up Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg with the closing ceremonies. Now it’s Red Deer’s turn to step into the spotlight. The city will host the 2019 Canada Winter Games from Feb. 15 to March 3, 2019.

During the ceremonies, the torch and flag were passed from Winnipeg to the next host.

Local volleyball player Reece Lehman received the ceremonial torch, with the flame from the Winnipeg ceremonies. Lehman played on Alberta’s volleyball team during the games, earning a silver medal. Lehman said he found out he would be the one carry the torch after the team’s last game.

“Everyone was cheering and clapping, there’s music in the background,” said Lehman. “Just before I went out I met Brett Kissel in the hallway. He was performing right after me so that was pretty cool.

“I was running around and I looked up at the screen and saw myself. It was me on the TSN feed … It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Lehman graduated from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School and will attend the University of Calgary this fall.

Watching the ceremony and the games, Lyn Radford host society board chair, saw the success of the games in Winnipeg, but added the events there were spread out throughout the city.

“We know that our community is capable of that and more,” said Radford. “Our events are going to be clustered together. There will be less travel time between events and there will be opportunities for spectators, volunteers and athletes to engage with each other.

“Everybody is going to be proud of what we have in Red Deer.”

To close out the ceremonies, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer took the ceremonial Canada Games flag and waved it live on TSN2 Sunday afternoon after it was passed to her by Canada Games chair Tom Quinn.

“It was an incredibly proud moment for Red Deer to be able to receive the flag and torch from the Canada Games,” said Veer. “Now that they have literally and figuratively been passed, we will elevate our community preparations.”

Radford knows there is a lot of work ahead for the local games committee. She said she is confidant in the team and the knowledge transfer from previous hosts and the Canada Games.

“The one thing we need to do is get the community to understand how big this is event is,” said Radford. “It is unbelievable. I’ve been part of this for many years, but it has blown me away how big it is. When you combine 19 sporting events with a cultural festival and bring people to your city and everyone gets excited about it, you will be engaging 100,000 people or more.”

Red Deer anticipates about 20,000 visitors and 3,600 participants to come to the city for the 19-sport event. The economic impact is estimated at $132 million.

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