B.C. Games have inspired thousands of athletes

More than 150,000 athletes have competed at the B.C. Games since their inception in 1978

With the 2012 BC Winter Games set to start in Vernon next month, spirit is building in every community across British Columbia.

The brainchild of former premier W.R. Bennett, the Games began in 1978 in Penticton.

Since then, 38 communities across the province have hosted the Games, some of them more than once.

More than 200,000 people have volunteered and more than 150,000 athletes have competed since it began.

“The B.C. Games was a great experience for me, much bigger than I imagined,” said Jamey Paterson, who served as vice-president of the 2010 B.C. Summer Games, which were held in the Township.

“(The Games) challenged me like I’ve never been challenged before, allowed me to witness a community coming together to proudly show off what we may take for granted on a daily bases.”

“Knowing it was so well worth the effort in the smiling faces of the athletes who participated as they dreamed, challenged and achieved,” he added.

“One of the most important benefits of hosting a B.C. Games is how it brings a community together,” says Henry Pejril, president of the 2006 B.C. Summer Games in Kamloops.

“There aren’t many opportunities like a Games that can capture the full cross-section of a community.

“The feeling of pride and accomplishment lasts in a host city for many years to come.”

Many well-known athletes had their start at the B.C. Games, including Tour de France cyclist Ryder Hesjedal and 2010 Olympic women’s snowboarding cross gold medallist Maelle Ricker, who are among the alumni who say their dreams of international competition began at the B.C. Games.

“My Olympic success can be traced to the provincial Games in my native Manitoba and I see the B.C. Winter Games providing the same opportunity for young athletes today,” said B.C. Games Society chair and 1976 Olympic speedskating silver medalist, Cathy Priestner Allinger.

“The B.C. Winter Games provide rising stars an opportunity to benefit from excellent coaching, while testing their skills against B.C.’s best.

“Our next generation of Canada Games athletes and Olympians are getting ready for the 2012 B.C. Winter Games in Vernon.”

Participants are generally under the age of 18 (depending on the sport), and have the potential to move beyond local and regional competition to the national stage and beyond.

“The B.C. Games are an important stepping stone towards the Canada Games and ultimately the Olympic Games,” said Kelly Stefanyshyn, a former Olympic swimmer and B.C. Games Society board member.

“Learning to (compete) for a team beyond just your sport and focus while so many events are occurring is imperative to an athlete’s success.”

According to the official website, the aim of the Games is “to provide an opportunity for the development of athletes, coaches, and officials in preparation for higher levels of competition in a multi-sport event which promotes interest and participation in sport and sporting activities, individual achievement, and community development.”

Brian Carruthers, president of the Williams Lake 2002 B.C. Winter Games, is proud of the achievements of B.C. athletes.

“Sport builds character in individuals and brings people together in a positive environment, whether as competitors, spectators or organizers,” he says.

The Winter Games feature 15 sports, including curling, figure skating, skiing and women’s hockey. It is expected that more than1,500 athletes and 300 coaches will participate in the Games in February.

“I believe in the B.C. Games as it provides an opportunity to share the spirit with other British Columbians while celebrating your community in the most fantastic and rewarding way,” said Diana Johnstone, operations manager for the 2002 B.C. Summer Games in Nanaimo.

“I can’t wait until 2014 when Nanaimo will once again be privileged to host this amazing event.”

Surrey hosts the 2012 B.C. Summer Games in July.

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