With the 2012 BC Winter Games set to start in Vernon in February, spirit is building in every community across British Columbia.
The brainchild of Premier W.R. Bennett, the Games began in 1978 in Penticton. Since then, 38 communities across the province have hosted the Games, some of them more than once. Over 200,000 people have volunteered and over 150,000 athletes have competed since it began.
“One of the most important benefits of hosting a BC Games is how it brings a community together,” says Henry Pejril, President of the 2006 BC Summer Games in Kamloops. “There aren’t many opportunities like a Games that can capture the full cross-section of a community. The feeling of pride and accomplishment lasts in a host city for many years to come.”
Many well-known athletes had their start at the BC Games, including Tour de France cyclist Ryder Hesjedal and 2010 Olympic women’s snowboarding cross gold medallist Maelle Ricker, who are among the alumni who say their dreams of international competition began at the BC Games.
“Having served as president of both the Summer (’96) and Winter Games (‘06) I have certainly observed first hand the positive effects on a community,” said Keith Smyth, Trail, President 1996 BC Summer Games and 2006 BC Winter Games.
“Certainly there is the pride to have executed such a high level, complex athletic endeavour, but, beyond that, it’s the bonding of volunteers and athletes doing their best for a common cause which really shines. The Games brings out the best in human spirit, that is, respect for others and the tenacity to accomplish a worthy goal. In addition, through the team building experience a community is left with the lasting legacy of having a huge skill set and talent pool for future endeavours. For sure, a truly uplifting experience!”
Participants are generally under the age of 18 (depending on the sport), and have the potential to move beyond local and regional competition to the national stage and beyond.
“The BC Games are an important stepping stone towards the Canada Games and ultimately the Olympic Games,” says Kelly Stefanyshyn, a former Olympic swimmer and BC Games Society board member. “Learning to (compete) for a team beyond just your sport and focus while so many events are occurring is imperative to an athlete’s success.”
According to the official website, the aim of the Games is “to provide an opportunity for the development of athletes, coaches, and officials in preparation for higher levels of competition in a multi-sport event which promotes interest and participation in sport and sporting activities, individual achievement, and community development.”
Surrey will host the 2012 BC Summer Games in July.