July 18,2014(ISN) – For the 2500 B.C. youth between the ages of 11 and 18 who are participating in the
B.C Summer Games, this weekend is to them the equivalent of participating in the
Olympics. The best of the best from all over B.C are competing in 19 sports in venues
throughout the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
The day started very early for the island’s box and field lacrosse teams from Zone
6- Vancouver Island- Central Coast. They were instructed to report to their pickup
location at 4:20am yesterday morning for a 5:20am departure by bus to Nanaimo
where they would report to accreditation and receive everything they needed to
be recognized as an official athlete or coach. They were visibly sleepy and were
accompanied by parents who were very grateful that Tim Horton’s was open to
provide them with coffee at what they perceived to be an ungodly hour.
It was pretty quiet in the parking lot at the Juan De Fuca Library in Colwood. The
lacrosse players had their gear all piled up in the middle of parking lot while the
swimmers across the way were all lined up nicely down the sidewalk like they
would at the top of their lane just before a race. They were organized in a way that
the buses could simply pull up and they could one by one in an orderly fashion
board a bus. You could feel some excitement when the buses turned in off of the
highway as these were not the school buses that these kids were expecting but
beautiful coaches loaded with televisions and wifi to run all of their digital devices.
They were definitely travelling to the games in style. The swimmers ended up
having to leave their perfect line and made their way to the other side of the parking
lot as the buses pulled up by the slightly less organized lacrosse players. A Summer
Games Volunteer who spoke with experience managed three large coaches worth
of athletes with ease and had everyone loaded within minutes. Parents and siblings
waved goodbye as the coaches pulled back onto the highway headed out for their
short trek up the island to Nanaimo.
There is no Olympic style Village in the Nanaimo but the teams are all housed in
schools throughout the city. The accommodations aren’t glamorous but all the
athletes and coaches are in the same boat sleeping in sleeping bags on matt’s on
classroom floors of local schools.
All athletes are required to stay with their team and are not allowed to sleep at
home in their own bed even if they live in Nanaimo. As much as this weekend is
about competing at high levels it is also about making memories and solidifying or
making new friendships. I have spoken with several adults who participated in the
Summer Games as teens and they all said that it was probably one of the best if not
the best memory of their athletic careers.
Athletes are bussed to and from their games, showers and meals. There is plenty
of time for the teams to watch other events throughout the city and cheer on
other teams from their zone. The games committee hosts an event tonight with
a Hollywood theme. This is the chance for teams to intermingle and get to know
people outside of their sport and zone. I am sure Facebook will be on fire tonight as
everyone starts sending friend requests to the people that they have just met.
The Opening Ceremonies were the same format as the Olympic Games. There was
the traditional RCMP officer in ceremonial dress riding a horse leading in a group
of bagpipers. The 8 competing zones of athletes were lead into the park by young
people holding up signs identifying the area they were representing. You could hear
people commenting on the outfits that the athletes were wearing. Each zone was
assigned a different colour and each individual team chose their own travelling
outfits which, were everything from simple to bold and bright.
Local dignitaries were introduced and gave speeches on the importance of sport,
commitment, overcoming obstacles and the hard work it takes to reach your athletic
and life goals. We were welcomed by the local aboriginal community and stood as
a community to sing” Oh Canada” which was sung with power and ease by a local
teen. The crowd of athletes, parents and hundreds of volunteers were entertained
by a professional youth skipping team and laughed while a popular B.C. television
personality tried skipping with the group. There was an original theme song
performed by B.C. teen while the
crowd of athletes and coaches performed a flash mob routine that they had been
instructed to learn before they arrived at the games. It wasn’t pretty but everyone
was up on their feet performing to the best of their abilities and there was a lot of
laughter which I am sure was the entire point.
At the end of the ceremony one of the islands most loved athletes lit the torches of
two groups of young track stars and they all ran a ceremonial lap around the track
officially opening the annual B.C. Summer Games. Let the games begin!!