When the B.C. Seniors Games were first held in 1987, 650 athletes over the age of 55 competed.
But as the Games get set to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2012, nearly 4,000 athletes will go for the gold medals in their respective sport.
And those thousands of athletes will be on their way to Langley, as MLA Mary Polak announced the B.C. Senior Games will be held Sept. 9-13, 2014.
Burnaby is hosting in 2012, while Kamloops has the 2013 Games.
The announcement was made on Tuesday morning at the George Preston Recreation Centre.
“No longer are people who are aging or in the seniors’ realm going to sit on the couch and wait for family to come by and visit them,” Polak said.
“They are out there, they are doing things, they are athletic, they are fit and they are making aging an entirely different experience for their generation.”
Hosting the Games can been an economic boon, with an estimated $2 million in economic activity by the participating seniors, said Joanne Francis, the communications chair for the B.C. Seniors Games Society.
Langley’s Paul Howes has competed at the Seniors Games for the past 10 years.
“We look forward to it every year with a whole lot of enthusiasm,” the table tennis player said, listing off different parts of the province he has seen because of his participation in the Games.
“It is just a neat experience.
“The Seniors Games are something that excites us all.”
Terry Thorne, who is with the Fort Langley Canoe Club, also spoke.
Three years ago, the club first put together a seniors Dragon boat team.
“We are going to bring a little bling back to the Langleys,” he said, pointing out that local competitors have won five of the past six gold medals over the past three years.
Thorne also talked about everything the Games offer.
“Although the events themselves are the main competition, there is a whole lot more that goes along than the Games itself,” he said, pointing out it is a chance for seniors to meet like-minded people, enjoy some good camaraderie and engage in a little bit of seniors’ trash talk.
In 2010, the Township alone hosted the B.C. Summer Games while in 2000, the City hosted the B.C. Disability Games.
“It was the right time for the communities to bid together,” said Kim Hilton, director of recreation, culture and community services for the City.
The success of the 2008 B.C. Summer Games helped convince the Township to bid again.
“The Summer Games were probably the impetus for putting them on,” said Jim Marvel, the Township’s manager of recreation facilities and services. “It was a great opportunity and a great thing for the community.
“The Seniors Games are another opportunity like that.
“We are always looking for sport tourism opportunities and a way to increase our volunteer base and to promote Langley as a sport tourism destination.”
Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender commended Hilton, Marvel, Langley Seniors Resource Society’s Barb Stack and Tourism Langley‘s Deborah Kulchiski for their work in putting the project together.
“Without their concerted effort and their collaboration it would not have happened,” Fassbender said.
“It is an exciting event and and we are going to have a great time.”