Games good to go

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Special Olympics Canada Winter Games start Feb. 28 in St. Albert

Everything is good to go for St. Albert to host the best Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in history.

The seventh annual national winter festival will showcase 650 athletes with an intellectual disability competing in seven sports for medals and the right to represent Canada at the 2013 worlds in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“We have all of our large items as well as our small pieces in place,” said Games manager Mike Edwards. “Our planning schedule was arranged and set up so that we built in a lot of time to pay close attention to all the minor details that connect all the small moving parts. You can’t plan for everything but what you can do is put yourself in a position that any changes and adjustments that are going to come up, which is inevitable, they are small changes or minor adjustments.”

The countdown to the opening ceremonies is only four weeks away.

“You can really feel the excitement building within the core group of the organizing committee as well as the Games volunteers themselves, the 750-plus, and it really increases everyone’s motivation to feed off the group’s energy,” Edwards said. “We’re starting to get a lot more volunteers coming forward and offering support and helping to provide support prior to the Games, which is fantastic because there is a lot of administrative and a lot of logistics tasks that require extra hands.”

The major concern for the Games Organizing Committee is the lack of snow for snowshoeing at the St. Albert Rugby Football Club and cross-country skiing at Kingswood Park.

“All that we can do is prepare, have our contingency plan in place and then be ready to execute it when the time arrives based on how Mother Nature helps us out,” said Edwards.

He ruled out bringing in or creating snow if the unseasonably warm weather continues.

“It’s very tasking and at the same time it’s quite expensive, and as a not-for-profit [organization]we don’t have that in the budget,” Edwards said. “However, snowshoeing can take place in minimum snow and with cross country, the group from STANSKI [St. Albert Nordic Ski Club] really does a great job when it comes to packing the snow, storing it and then being able to pull it out and put it on the tracks. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, what we would do is more likely have a condensed schedule for cross country.”

Curling will be staged at the St. Albert Curling Club and Servus Credit Union Place is the venue for floor hockey, figure skating and speed skating.

Alpine skiing will take place at Marmot Basin in Jasper.

Edwards said all the sports schedules should be finalized in a couple of weeks.

On the financial side of the Games, the operation budget is 1.55 million.

“We have to provide accommodations, food for every meal and transportation for all the participating athletes and teams and that is 950 people for six days,” Edwards said.

Alberta is sending the third largest team out of 10 provinces and two territories to the Games. Alberta’s team consists of 78 athletes, 23 coaches and 11 mission staff.

The next major event for the Games organizers is the Feb. 17-18 volunteer rally at Vital Grandin School.

“It’s a drop-in event and it’s for all registered volunteers to come in and do their final registration or their final steps. They will get their accreditation and their uniform. They will go through a brief Games orientation and then some groups will be meeting with their committee chairs to provide more detailed information for their areas specifically,” Edwards said.

The Games committee is also organizing a fundraising concert for the Good Buddies Blues Band of Regina, the headline act for the opening ceremonies at Performance Arena. Tickets are $10 for the Feb. 27 concert at the North Pointe Community Church.

“They’re providing their own transportation, so basically they’re covering their costs to come and participate at our opening ceremonies,” Edwards said. “Fifty per cent of the band members are individuals with an intellectual disability so their main goal is inclusion through the power of music.”

The Feb. 28 opening ceremonies start at 7 p.m. and admission is free. The closing ceremonies are March 3 at 5 p.m. at Performance Arena.

For more information on the Games, visit www.stalbert2012.ca.

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.