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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Countdown Clock to 2015

I was there at the beginning, close to when this blog began in fact. I was there for the pep rally when the selection committee came to visit, and I was delighted when the announcement was finally made and we learned that in 2015 the Western Canada Summer Games were headed to Wood Buffalo. It's hard to believe that was almost three years ago, but there it is, and last week another special date passed. Last week we were exactly 500 days from the start of the games.

While I was there I am not certain even I understood what a massive undertaking this was, or what it would entail. I hadn't envisioned the army of volunteers that would be needed, or what it would mean for the concept of sport tourism in our community. I wasn't part of the experience of Shell Place or MacDonald Island yet, but as the years have passed I have become more and more immersed and learned more and more about what an incredible and exciting opportunity - and challenge - these games represent for our region.

In less than 500 days (491 days, 6 hours, 51 minutes and 55 seconds as I write this, according to the official countdown clock) we will play host to hundreds of athletes, coaches, supporters and sport fans. We will become part of history as the Western Canada Summer Games kick off and head into ten incredible days of events.

And those events? Everything from artistic gymnastics to wrestling, and all points in between. There is something on the event schedule for every fan, whether you love tennis or triathlon, badminton or baseball. The events will occur all over our region, from Gregoire Lake to Anzac, showcasing all that is best about our region ("take THAT, Neil Young", I will say when sharing photos of kayaking at the lovely Gregoire Lake Provincial Park).

What I don't think I truly realized or understood back then is that events like this change our community in so many ways. I didn't truly grasp that every visiting athlete, coach and supporter is a potential new ambassador for our region, and thus our need to ensure they have a positive experience here regardless of how they do in their athletic competitions. I didn't understand that creating that army of volunteers will require a massive mobilization of individuals who are committed to ensuring the success of every single facet of the event. I didn't understand the sheer magnitude of this kind of undertaking, and what tasks the organizing committee and all who sit on it are facing as they prepare for an event that has tremendous significance.

All I understood almost three years ago was the excitement - and it's still there.

The excitement continues to build, in fact, with every tick of the countdown clock and every day that passes. As we get closer and closer to the opening celebrations I find myself reflecting more and more on what these events truly mean. I suppose part of my new understanding has evolved as part of my professional role, but part of my understanding has also come from getting more involved in our community and in delving deeper into events such as this to see what makes them tick. And what does make them tick?


People like those who sit on the organizing committee for the games. People like those who volunteer. People like the visiting athletes, coaches and supporters. People just like you and me, in fact. These events are about people, and dependent on people like us to be a success.

You can be part of it. You can visit the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games site and learn about the sports, see the event calendar, check out the countdown clock - and most importantly you can click on the link labelled "volunteer" and become part of an event that will change our region and become part of our history. I know that I will be there, because I was so very honoured to be there at the beginning, too. This event has become part of the history of this blog, my journey of life in this community and my heart.

I wouldn't miss it for the world, because it is just another one of those times when the world comes to Wood Buffalo.

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