The eyes of the B.C. sports community are on Vancouver Island this weekend as the Cowichan Valley hosts more than 2,000 young athletes for the 2018 BC Summer Games.
The participants are competing in 18 sports in venues throughout the region, from Shawnigan Lake to Ladysmith and from Cowichan Bay to Lake Cowichan, with one sport — synchronized swimming — being contested in Nanaimo. The 2,373 athletes are supported by 453 coaches, 246 officials and an army of 2,500 volunteers.
The Cowichan Games mark the 40th anniversary of the BC Games. This is the 31st iteration of the Games, which were held on an annual basis from 1978 to 1998 before going to a biennial format.
“As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the BC Games, I am so proud of our successful history of sport and community development,” said Kelly Mann, CEO and president of the BC Games Society. “With an eye to the future, I am equally proud of how the Games are expanding, with a focus on inclusion and reconciliation, and creating lasting legacies in every community and across the province.”
The 2018 Games, which started with opening ceremonies at Laketown Ranch on Thursday evening and run until Sunday afternoon, are expected to attract thousands of visitors in addition to the athletes, and generate up to $2 million for the local economy.
“We are thrilled to host this exciting multi-sport event for youth,” said Jennifer Woike, president of the Cowichan Games Society. “It’s a great opportunity to share Cowichan Valley’s warm hospitality and great sports facilities with people from every corner of B.C. I hope all the athletes, coaches and officials have a wonderful time, and look for opportunities to visit us again.”
Competitors are representing eight geographic zones: Kootenays (Zone 1), Thompson-Okanagan (Zone 2), Fraser Valley (Zone 3), Fraser River (Zone 4), Vancouver Coastal (Zone 5), Vancouver Island-Central Coast (Zone 6), Northwest (Zone 7) and Cariboo-North East (Zone 8). The Zone 5 team will include more than 50 athletes from the Cowichan Valley.
Premier John Horgan commented on the value events like the BC Summer Games have for young athletes and for the province as a whole.
“Sport brings people together, helps us overcome barriers and differences, and plays a powerful role in the lives of young people,” he said. “A kid trying a new sport today could be a BC Summer Games champion of the future, and move on to higher levels of competition, like Team BC, Team Canada and beyond. The experience, camaraderie and confidence they build will help them succeed in life.
With many athletes coming from the mainland, BC Ferries has warned passengers to book a reservation ahead of time to ensure they catch a specific sailing. The afternoon of July 22 is expected to be the busiest time for athletes and other visitors returning home.
The busiest runs are expected to be the 4:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. sailings from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, the 5:45 p.m. sailing from Duke Point to Tsawwassen, and the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. sailings from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen.
Those travelling without a reservation should consider travelling before 4:45 p.m. or after 7 p.m.