By Ted Murphy, Western Wheel
Okotoks and Diamond Valley pulled it off with flying colours.
Four years in the making, the 2023 Alberta Summer Games brought thousands of people to the region recently for the biennial sporting spectacle that’s often described as a ‘mini-Olympics’ because it’s so multi-faceted. The Summer Games not only saw competition in 14 sports over three days, but organizers were tasked with housing, feeding, transporting and entertaining 3,000 athletes, coaches and officials.
Following the closing ceremonies at the Okotoks Curling Club, those involved with staging the Games – which ran from July 20 to 23 – were extremely pleased with how it all went.
“It was 100 per cent worth it, I’m 100 per cent proud of everyone,” said Sandi Kennedy, chair of the Summer Games board of directors.
“I’m really pleased with how everything went. Everyone did their jobs and the kids just loved it. All the volunteers were so good to the kids.”
Well over 1,000 volunteers stepped forward to allow the two communities to stage the Games, helping at all sporting venues as well as in the food centre, at the athletes’ villages and with countless tasks over the four days.
“Our whole community stepped up to execute this,” said Mayor Tanya Thorn, who did her part by volunteering at the food centre set up in the Okotoks Curling Club.
“I think the smiles on the faces of the athletes said it all. They were fed well, they were treated well and to see our zone win the Spirit of Sport Award is a testament to what the people in this region are like and how welcoming we are, so I couldn’t be happier, I couldn’t be prouder.”
The mayor said she heard much positive feedback from parents and coaches who have attended multiple Summer Games and how happy they were with their experience in the Foothills.
“I hope they all come back, just not all together,” she joked.
The first official event of the Games took place when torchbearers carried the ATCO torch through the downtown streets of both Diamond Valley and Okotoks, but things really got into gear with the arrival of participants and a colourful opening ceremonies at Seaman Stadium.
Teams from eight zones across Alberta began competition at venues throughout Okotoks and at the expanded mountain bike track in Diamond Valley, which continued to midday Sunday when champions were crowned in their respective sports.
Zone 3 (Calgary) once again won the Alberta Cup as the top team at the Games.
Competitors were housed at athletes’ villages set up at local schools, ate all their meals at the food centre, which was catered by Sunterra Market, and were transported by bus throughout the weekend.
Participants ranged in age from 11 to 17 and organizers said for many it will be the biggest sporting event they ever take part in, while others will use it as a springboard for national or international competition.
Games manager Marica Borovich-Law said although sport is at the heart of the Games, creating long-lasting memories and new friendships is the ultimate goal.
The Games also featured cultural components, including a Rock the Games! concert held Saturday night at Ethel Tucker Centennial Park and a legacy art wall at the Okotoks Recreation Centre.
For more information and event results, please go to the Alberta Summer Games website: https://albertasummergames.ca/
(This story was originally published in the Western Wheel newspaper and is being used here with the author’s permission).