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Calgary to host the 2024 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games

By Rodrigo Verney, March 17 2023

Calgary is getting ready to host another edition of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games for a week of impressive displays of athletic prowess. The event will happen next year in the last week of February and will comprise eight total winter sports that will attract top Canadian athletes. The city will be expecting around 4000 people — including 1300 athletes, coaches, and officials — to come and make this one of the best editions Canada has hosted.

The logo reveals a new surge of expectations and helps share some of the concerns people had for this edition, as many saw it as a logistical challenge since the city had a bit more than a year to come up with their beginning structural phase. Karen Dommett, the general manager of the games, told the Calgary Herald that organizers had less time to prepare compared to other host cities because of many delays tied to COVID.

“We’re doing this planning in 14 months when you would traditionally have three years. So we’re drinking from the fire hose. Plans are happening quickly,” Dommett said.

Dommett went on to complete that community leaders and venues alike have been kind and supportive despite the tight deadline. The event is also counting on a volunteer system that is already open for Calgarians to join on their website. It is estimated that 750 volunteers would be enough to help the event run as efficiently and smoothly as possible following their projections. However, the call for volunteers couldn’t be more strongly reinforced since the deadline is rapidly approaching.

The city looks ecstatic with the prospect of hosting the games. Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that the venues holding the games are ready to welcome the athletes and the staff to celebrate Calgary’s diversity and inclusivity. 

“These athletes and their stories demonstrate the transformative power that the Special Olympics Canada organization has had in our communities,” said Gondek to the Calgary Herald. “They go above and beyond to ensure that everyone is given a chance to play and is treated with dignity.”

There will be seven venues hosting the eight games in total. The WinSport Hill will be hosting alpine skiing, Bowling Depot will be the five-pin bowling venue, Confederation Park will host cross-country skiing, North Hill Community Curling Club will be hosting curling, Seven Chiefs Sportsplex will be hosting both figure skating and floor hockey, while Fort Calgary will be the venue for snowshoeing, and the University of Calgary will have the honour of being a venue for the speed skating competition that will be held at the Olympic Oval.

The athletes that dominate the leaderboards in this edition will have a shot at qualification for a spot at the 2025 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Turin, Italy. This is an incredible opportunity for any competitor at this level. However, to get there, they must first win it all in a city that isn’t a stranger to the Olympic games. Dommett told the Calgary Herald that the rich Calgarian Olympic legacy will be one of the event’s themes.

“We will be doing some special medal ceremony presentations in collaboration with Chinook Blast that will take place downtown at Olympic Plaza, that legacy venue from 1988 that was built intentionally for medal presentations,” she said. “We are so excited to offer that experience to our athletes.”

The event is expected to bring $10.7 million into Calgary making a considerable impact on the city both culturally and financially. Beyond this projection, TC Energy and the Flames Foundation have both signed in as sponsors for this edition of the games. TC Energy president and CEO, Francois Poirier said that it was an honour to be serving as the games’ co-chair, alongside Cheryl Bernard, the renowned Olympic curler. 

“Not only am I honoured to be serving as co-chair of the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games Calgary 2024 along with Cheryl Bernard — a great leader and advocate for the benefits of sport — but I’m also proud that TC Energy and our incredible employees are supporting the games through sponsorship of the Volunteer Program. We are united in our belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to participate in sports. Together, we are committed to making these games a memorable and impactful experience for all involved,” said Poirier in the press release.

Bernard went on to say that the sponsorship money is going to be put to good use as a stream to directly make sure that the operations for the games run smoothly, as well as to insure the proper spending for the legacy program. 

“I’ve lived in this city my entire life and what I have witnessed is people that step up,” said Bernard in the press release. “They step up when it matters most. They sponsor, they donate their time, they volunteer, and all of that creates magical events as most of us have seen.” 

Dommett is truly excited to be a part of such a great and rich Special Olympic history. She highlights the importance of an event of this magnitude in an athletes’ lives. 

“By removing barriers to allow them to compete at their highest level, you truly get a front-row seat to humanity,” said Dommett. “You will have that front-row ticket to watch some of the most magical moments of sport unfold right in front of your eyes. And I promise you, having been part of a few of these, there’s nothing that compares.”

This event will truly be a test of our adaptability in facing COVID and a display of community values and fellowship, showing just how well Calgary can unite to provide the conditions for it to thrive and develop.

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