Empowered volunteers one of the keys to a successful Canada Winter Games: Radford

To most people, four years is a long time.

To most people, four years is a long time.

But in Lyn Radford’s mind, it is only 1,443 days until the 2019 Canada Winter Games begin in Red Deer.

When Radford, the chairperson of the 2019 Canada Winter Games board, looked around Prince George, B.C., she was reminded that there’s a lot of work to do between now and the opening ceremonies on Feb. 15, 2019.

Radford attended the opening and closing weekends of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, held from Feb. 13 to March 1 in Prince George.

Members of the board, city staffers and transition team members also took in some of the games.

“My initial thought was, ‘What have I gotten myself into,’ ” laughed Radford. “I didn’t sleep very well because I was observing hundreds of details every day.”

Radford said one of the things that stood out most was ensuring that Red Deer has roughly 6,000 volunteers in place for the games in order to avoid burnout.

As well, Radford said the volunteers must be in the right positions and empowered to make game day decisions.

In Prince George, there was a software hiccup with the charter airline on the crossover day, when some athletes arrive and others depart. The airline was unable to fly its entire flight plan.

Many athletes from the Eastern provinces arrived a day late.

Sarah Cockerill, Red Deer’s director of Community Services, who will act as the city liaison on the host society when it is formed, said to see how Prince George responded and adapted its plans to something that was out of its control was a good learning experience for Red Deer.

“Prince George handled it like troopers,” said Cockerill.

“For us to watch that and understand that these things happen no matter how well you plan was a really good learning experience for us.”

She said it was useful to see how the host society accommodated the athletes and volunteers in a critically short time period.

“We have to ensure we have the correct volunteers in the positions and empower them,” added Radford. “We need to be able to say, ‘You know what? These things are going to happen no matter how much we plan and you need to make some on-the-ground decisions.’ ”

Radford said the key is for the board to set a philosophy and vision of what they want the games to be.

“Then I don’t think it will be hard to empower the on-the-ground volunteers to be able to make the right decisions and move forward and get things going,” said Radford.

“Whether it is the transition day or the luggage change or something happens on the field of play. We have to make sure we have that kind of training in place.”

Ensuring a smooth transition for athletes from warming areas, to waxing tents to the competition field is also key, said Radford.

“We have to really ensure that we have a good experience for our athletes,” she said. “Prince George did a wonderful job to ensure there were evening celebrations. There was a plaza down there. That’s one of the concepts we had and we’re going to build on that. That’s another way for the community to come out and participate.”

Radford said she heard time and time again in Prince George that “this is the best thing that happened to our community.” She said no doubt it will ring true for Red Deer, too.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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