HALIFAX — The Canada Winter Games closed Sunday afternoon at the Halifax Metro Centre amid the familiar skirl of bagpipes and with a familiar winner as overall points leader.
Powerhouse Ontario captured the flag for the 19th time in 23 Games by overtaking Quebec 312 points to 301 over the course of the two-week competition.
British Columbia finished third.
But for many of the athletes, the chance to compete at a major national competition was worth a lot more than mere points and cloth banners.
“I’ve never been to a team event this big,” said Logan Campbell, a 21-year-old badminton player from Calgary.
A bronze medal winner, Campbell said experiencing a Canada Games was something he’d recommend to all aspiring young athletes.
“I met a lot of new people . . . and it was just an amazing experience altogether.”
Jade Critchlow, a 17-year-old snowboarder from Kelowna, B.C., said her first trip to Canada’s East Coast was an experience to remember.
“It was really cool. I didn’t know what to expect, but I enjoyed it a lot,” she said.
The Games’ 90-minute closing featured a variety of East Coast musical performers and the traditional parade of athletes. The crowd waved sparklers that lit up the darkened arena.
The Games’ torch was marched in by a group of Nova Scotia medal winners and presented to officials from Sherbrooke, Que., which will host the 2013 Summer Games.
In a news conference prior to the closing ceremony, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter lauded the Games as an example of the kind of spirit that is present in Canada’s youth.
The premier, who visited many of the venues, said he would take away a host of memories, including the night Nova Scotia punched its way to four medals in boxing, including two gold before a soldout crowd of over 5,000 at the venerable Halifax Forum.
But he said the day he awarded a medal to a young skier at the Wentworth ski venue stood out most of all.
“The expression on her face and the smile was just so infectious,” said Dexter. “To me it just represented everything that these Games can and should be about.”
Dexter said while the Games would leave his province a legacy in terms of new and improved sports venues, it also had an effect on those who took part as volunteers and as fans.
“The boost in self-confidence, the tremendous spirit that came out of these Games, is something that will continue in this province for years to come,” he said. “We know that we can host great events.”
Games’ points are based on scores recorded by every athlete that participates in an event, not just Top 3 finishes.
Quebec easily finished first in the overall medal count, picking up 137, including 51 gold. Ontario won 110 medals and B.C. 88.
Host Nova Scotia was awarded the Centennial Cup as the most improved province after picking up 12 medals. The host province also won the award for best sportsmanship.
The Host Games Society said it exceeded its sponsorship target of $8.2 million for the Games and ticket sales of $1 million. A series of nightly free concerts in the downtown square in front of city hall also drew an estimated 50,000 people.
Lorne Lasuita, Saskatchewan’s chef de mission, said Halifax had achieved a standard in hosting the Games that were beyond expectations.
“We never heard one complaint from a coach or a manager,” he said.
Prince George, B.C., will host the next Winter Games in 2015.
l Team Alberta captured the female hockey title with a 3-2 win over Ontario Saturday.
Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs defenceman Taryn Baumgardt of Innisfail had an assist for Alberta while Sutter Fund rearguard Hannah Mousek of Olds also played a solid game.