Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Counting Down to the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games

I remember the excitement well. The bid to host the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games. The rally to show our big spirit, and then, a few weeks later, when it was announced. We had captured the hearts and minds of the decision makers and the 2015 games were coming here to us. It was a stunning moment, excitement and glee abounded and then...nothing, right? Then nothing happened, right? Wrong, people, wrong. Plans for the 2015 Summer Games have been full steam ahead, as I learned this past week when I got to meet the new manager of the games, Kim Rizzi.

Kim has moved here from Montreal in order to organize and manage these games. And it isn't just Kim who has come, but her entire family. And with her she brings not just her family but an impressive pedigree of managing top-notch, quality, high-calibre games, like the Pan-American Games, and the Olympics. She has been involved in managing fifteen games in total, and has twenty-five years of experience, which she now brings to us as we embark on this journey to the 2015 Games right here in Wood Buffalo.

These games are no small undertaking. It is anticipated 14,000 people will descend on our city in August 2015, including athletes, officials, media, and spectators. We are going to be in the public eye in a very big way, and we are going to be hosting 14,000 potential ambassadors in a region that relies on just such people to spread the word about us. This will be a chance for us to truly shine, through athletic competition, but even more importantly through community.

It was fascinating to speak to Kim as one of the comments she made is that she has travelled around the world but has never heard the word community as much as she has in short few weeks here. I believe that, as the concept of community here has a strength unlike anything I've ever seen before, either. I think it's because we are still building our community, and because every single person has the opportunity at this point to direct what this community will become. Every person who chooses to be involved has the chance to help this community develop cohesiveness and health. Every person has the ability to make a difference in what this community is now, and what it will be in the future - and I think we all have some sense of that, too, and that is why we are a bit community-obsessed (in a very good way, people).

The games are going to need some things, like 3000 volunteers. There will be a need for patience as our population will briefly swell and there may be accompanying traffic woes. But it is what the games will bring to us that is really interesting, and what really matters. The games will bring us pride. They will bring us a sense of cooperation and collaboration. They will bring us a sense of our can-do attitude. And they will show the world our "big spirit", the big spirit that gets talked about so much but that some may think is a smokescreen (it isn't, not by a long shot, as "big spirit" might be a bit of an advertising campaign but it describes the nature of this place better than any other phrase I've ever seen).

18 venues, two athlete villages, 2500 athletes, 300 technical officials, 3000 volunteers, about 10,000 visiting spectators and media, one mascot, one countdown clock - and one 2015 Canadian Summer Games, hosted right here in the Wood Buffalo region. The excitement didn't die after the announcement that we had captured the games - it just quieted for a tiny bit, but over the next two and a half years I suspect it will build to a fever pitch, right until the opening ceremonies when we welcome all those people - all those potential ambassadors - to this region of possibility, belief, and opportunity. The thing is they think they are coming here for their own benefit - to participate in a sport, or watch a sporting event, or officiate at a competition. In reality they are coming here to our benefit, because when they leave this community, when they pack their bags and hop on a plane or drive down Highway 63, they will leave talking about how Fort McMurray wasn't what they expected. It was bigger, they will say. It was better, they will think. It wasn't the place they had heard about in national media, they will realize. What they will leave thinking is "Fort McMurray is amazing - who knew?". And that is where we have the advantage, people. They don't know our secret yet - but we do. And in 2015 we have the chance to share it with 14,000 people from across the country.

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