The 100-day countdown to the BC Seniors Games in the West Kootenay began with a torch-lighting ceremony in Castlegar on Tuesday night.
The event was largely a celebration of all the work that has been done so far in preparing the region to host the major sporting event and a look forward to the opening ceremonies in August, but games president Pat Metge also took the opportunity to put out a call for volunteers.
“Even though our board of directors have completed many of the tasks to prepare for the games, we have a busy time before us,” he told the gathering of more than 100 people outside of the Castlegar Complex.
“With less than 100 days to go to the opening of the games the major task is to sign up approximately 1,500 volunteers to make the games an event all the West Kootenay can be proud of.”
As Metge spoke, a procession of athletes began to march down 6th Avenue, escorted by police vehicles, carrying the Senior Games flame.
They made their way to the Castlegar Complex, where they formed a line and passed the hand-held torch from one to another until it finally arrived in the hands of Jack Yolland, who carried the flame up a set of stairs and ignited the large Senior Games torch in front of a cheering crowd.
The games will be held throughout the region from Aug. 16 to 20, with venues in Castlegar, Trail and Nelson.
Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs said his city has worked with each of Castlegar and Nelson individually before but this will mark the first major event where all three communities have collaborated so closely.
“I think that’s a sign of the future, because no one community can really do this alone any more,” Bogs said. “We’re looking forward to putting on the best games ever, and I know we can do it. We have the people, we have the organization. And let’s find lots of volunteers.”
Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said the event, which is expected to draw 3,200 athletes from across the province, will bring a major economic boost to all three cities and the communities in between.
“I think we’re just about maxed on anything that you want — the rooms, the bed and breakfasts, everything that’s out there,” he said. “Everybody will be busy.”
Nelson city councillor Debra Kozak said the event will also be an opportunity to showcase the region to a wide audience.
“I think the spirit within the Kootenay region, within our tri-cities coming together to host these games, is very strong,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing these events. I’m looking forward to having these people visit our communities. And, most of all, I’m looking forward to having our three communities to work together and pull this off.”
For more information on how to volunteer for the games, visit www.2011bcseniorsgames.org and click on “Volunteer.” You can also contact the volunteer directors, Marion Hunter and Doreen Smecher, through the games office by phone: 250-365-2211.
“I’d like to challenge all of you to get active and get involved in the largest sporting event to take place in the West Kootenay,” Metge said.
For more photos from the event and a video of the large torch being lit, visit the Castlegar News Facebook page at: facebook.com/castlegarnews.