Making dreams come true: Corner Brook hosts the Canada Winter Games

By Kelly Boyes
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

All eyes will be on Corner Brook, Newfoundland when the Canada Winter Games begin there next month. Hundreds of young people are coming from all parts of Canada to participate in the games that take place from February 20 to March 6.

Over 3200 athletes, coaches and other athletic personnel are traveling to this scenic west coast of Newfoundland. The athletes will seek to fulfill their dreams of accomplishment in one of the 21 winter sports: Alpine skiing, artistic gymnastics, badminton, biathlon, boxing, cross-country
skiing, curling, fencing, figure skating, freestyle skiing, hockey, judo, rhythmic gymnastics, ringette, shooting, synchronized swimming, speed skating, squash, table tennis, weightlifting, and wheelchair basketball.

It is estimated that more than 25,000 fans will be on hand this year to greet the athletes and cheer them on in their quest for success. The Canada Games began over thirty years ago as part of the country's Confederation celebrations, and are now held at two-year intervals, alternating between
winter and summer sports activities. One-third of the Canadian athletes in the last Olympics had previously competed in the Canada Games.

Corner Brook is the smallest area ever to host these games and the competition there would not be possible without many hours of hard work and preparation invested by people in the region. Thousands of adults and children have come together to organize the events and to create a positive surrounding for them.

"There have been so many changes!" says Erin McCormack, a Corner Brook student who is active as a volunteer. "There have been renovations all over the area."

A new Canada Games Centre has been built in the city of Corner Brook to host many of the games. It has two ice surfaces, with a total seating capacity of 3500, and a gymnasium area. Downhill skiing will be held at Marble Mountain in nearby Steady Brook and cross-country events will take place in Corner Brook's newly renovated ski park. Other sports venues have been located in local schools and colleges in the area.

McCormack reports that one school--Herdman Collegiate--will serve as a lounge area where athletes and their coaches and managers can relax between events. This entertainment centre will offer a variety of table and video games as well as a big-screen television that follow the game competitions. A computer room at the school will give athletes e-mail access and Internet access.

With over 6000 people signed on as volunteers, local residents are involved in everything, ranging from handling V.I.P. passes to providing bilingual announcements at game competitions. "People are involved in a lot of different ways," McCormack says. "I think I will be working about 20 hours in the two weeks that the games are held. Everyone is excited, and nervous too, because it's very important."

Local schools will be shut down during the two-week period of the games to provide students the opportunity to work at various venues and assignments, and of course to give them a chance to see many of the games.

The present atmosphere in Corner Brook is one of excitement and anticipation of the days to come. The games will begin with the dramatic entry of the athletes for the Opening Ceremonies. According to McCormack, the Opening Ceremonies will feature regional entertainment and Newfoundland music.

"The ceremonies are going to be great," she says. "I can't wait! I think my family has tickets. They are really hard to get!"

With the excitement rising and the promotion of Newfoundland and Labrador heritage in the air, Corner Brook has been transformed into an athlete's dream land. People in the Corner Brook area have worked hard to bring the Canada Games alive and to cater to the needs of the athletes and spectators.

For many Canadian athletes, the dream will begin with the Opening Ceremonies and continue through two weeks of hard competition, victory and defeat, pleasure and pain. And, through it all, one thing will remain: the sense of unity that the games bring to all of Canada.


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