Close to 150 athletes will compete for Zone 6 West Kootenay at the 2012 Senior Games in Burnaby this week. The Opening Ceremonies will officially kick the Games off tonight at Swangard Stadium

Close to 150 athletes will compete for Zone 6 West Kootenay at the 2012 Senior Games in Burnaby this week. The Opening Ceremonies will officially kick the Games off tonight at Swangard Stadium

Senior Games in the starting blocks

Ceremony sets the cauldron ablaze tonight in Burnaby

About 40 athletes from Greater Trail will join another 100 from the West Kootenay Zone 6 region in Burnaby this week to compete in the 2012 B.C. Senior Games.

With close to 30 sports ranging from pickleball to ice hockey, and cribbage to one-act-plays the Games are a unique event that promotes the health and lifestyle of athletes 55-plus with the Games’ mission “to promote active participation by seniors in sport, recreation, fitness, culture and self-education.”

Trail, Castlegar, and Nelson collectively hosted the Games in 2011, attracting over 3,000 athletes, coaches, and supporters to the area.

Last year’s Games director Keith Smythe recognizes what an undertaking it is, as Burnaby prepares to light the torch at the opening ceremonies tonight.

“It’s absolutely enormous,” said Smythe. “This is the point where everything comes together, so that’s a whole year of work – considering the number of directors you have working, it’s very complex.”

Burnaby won’t have as many of the logistical problems that the West Kootenay venues faced, with ample facilities and accommodations readily available. However, they have consulted last year’s directors to fully prepare for this year’s games.

“Burnaby is not like the same feeling that we have in a small town, where it would be one event amongst many, many events. They’ve been working very hard and I know that some of our directors have been working very closely with some of their directors and helping them through some of their tasks – protocol especially.”

The cooperative effort bound the three West Kootenay communities and its mayors in unexpected ways. The respective Chamber of Commerces worked hard together to promote the community and find accommodation for visiting campers and room seekers.

But one aspect Burnaby and every venue shares with last year’s hosts is the vast number of volunteers required to make the Games a success.

Smythe says, that any event needs about as many volunteers as it does participants, and the support received at the 2011 Games was inspiring as close to 3,000 volunteers pitched in to make the Games a go in the Kootenays.

“We can’t say enough about the volunteers,” said Smythe. “The people that stepped up to the plate were unbelievable.”

Despite the incredible workload that continues even after the Games are done, Smythe says the undertaking is well worth it.

“The thing about having big events on that scale of organization, it brings together the best you’ve got in your communities, and the fact that we did it between Trail, Castlegar and Nelson, I’m still feeling the effects of the great people I’ve met in all three communities.”

The Opening Ceremonies will take place at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium, beginning at 7 p.m. with a stunning performance from marching bands, choirs, ethnic entertainment and the parade of participants.

The Games’ cauldron will be lit by Provincial Minister of Sport, Ida Chong, who will receive the torch in a most unique way, passed on to her by one of British Columbia’s best. However, the Games committee is keeping the name under wraps. Master of ceremonies for the ceremony is legendary band leader Dal Richards. Competition starts Wednesday and will wrap up on Saturday.

Games notes: About 400 participants comprised the West Kootenay contingent in 2011, the largest to ever attend the Games. With those big numbers, the team also put in its best performance ever, finishing second overall in the medal haul.

The West Kootenay collected 106 gold, 65 silver and 69 bronze following close behind Fraser Valley with 264 medals total. The Lower Mainland took third with 237.