The countdown is on for the 2020 Alberta Winter Games, which will be held in Airdrie Feb. 14 to 17.
Shauna Quinn, Games’ host society executive chair, said preparations are ramping up as the four-day event inches closer.
“It’s absolutely pedal to the metal, and it is now crunch time to get everything done,” she said. “But things are looking really good, and it’s just a matter of dotting the I’s, crossing the T’s and making sure we’re all in sync to the plans that are happening.”
According to Quinn, 1,855 high-level winter athletes – ranging in age from 11 to 17 – will compete in 16 sports throughout the weekend. The Games will also include 475 coaches, 330 technical officials and more than 600 volunteers.
Athletes and teams will be split into eight zones, based on geography. Airdrie’s 29 athletes will compete under the Zone 2 (Big Country) banner.
“We really want Airdrie residents to come out and make this a moment for these kids,” Quinn said. “The Zone 2 colour is maroon, so wear your maroon scarves, make some posters and celebrate the efforts these kids have put forward in making these Games, because it’s not an easy feat.”
Quinn, who has been preparing for the Games for more than a year, said local marketing efforts will ramp up in the lead up to the opening ceremony. She said banners, advertisements and signage will start popping up more frequently.
“Now that we’ve hit 2020 and the cold weather is here, people realize we’re actually really close to the Games,” she said. “For some people, it might be nostalgic and bring back memories from when Airdrie was the host city for the 2014 Alberta Summer Games.”
The event is also expected to stimulate the local economy, as the municipality gets set to welcome more than 6,000 visitors. According to Quinn, an economic impact study indicated projected spending by visitors would amount to $1.4 million, while the overall economic impact to Airdrie would be more than $4 million.
“People should realize – especially in our economic landscape – how important it is that our community is hosting this,” Quinn said. “Not only because of the economic impact, but also the social impact and civic pride.”
Fifteen venues will be abuzz with competition, including Genesis Place Recreation Centre, Ron Ebbesen Arena, Plainsmen Arena and the Airdrie Curling Club. Seven local schools, including Airdrie’s four high schools, will also host events.
“We hope residents do come out and support it in any way they can, whether it’s volunteering, buying tickets or even just wearing some Airdrie merchandise to show the city has its own unique identity and we are able to host big events like this,” Quinn said.
Some sports will be held outside of Airdrie – speed skating and artistic swimming will be held in Calgary, biathlon and cross-country skiing will take place in Canmore, and volleyball will be held at the Volleydome in Balzac. Due to a lack of venue availability over the February long weekend, skiing and snowboarding competitions take place on separate weekends.
Considering the high calibre of the athletes, Quinn said she encourages residents to come check out the Games. She said a day pass costs $15, while a weekend pass that gains entry into every sporting event is $35.
“If you look at the history of the Alberta Games, a lot of these athletes go on to compete at a high level of competition, including the Olympics,” she said. “Your friend, your classmate at school who is competing in hockey or ringette…could be one of our next NHL players or Olympians. It’s great to get out and cheer them on for this opportunity.”
As of press time, competition schedules had not yet been published. For more information on the Games, visit bit.ly/2FRasVM