After more than a year of build-up and hype, the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games finally kicked off in the Hub of the North on Sunday with a lavish opening ceremony, which took place inside the Thompson Regional Community Centre (TRCC).
Outside of the droves of spectators who packed into the C.A. Nesbitt Arena, these festivities were designed to welcome some of the roughly 1,400 athletes and coaches who travelled from all over Manitoba to compete in the largest multi-sport event in the province.
While decidedly smaller in scale, this event involved a lot of same pomp and circumstance that has become synonymous with the beginning of the Olympic Games. This includes a flag raising ceremony, the lighting of a cauldron outside the TRCC and performances from Diamond Dance Academy and local hip-hop group Poetry in Motion.
Throughout the evening, a group of dignitaries also took to the stage to provide official greetings and to let these young athletes know what to expect through the next six days of competition.
“The Olympics just ended. Well, these are our Olympics,” said Churchill–Keewatinook Aski MP Niki Ashton. “So this is an opportunity for us to celebrate the hard work you’ve done, the incredible support from your parents, from your coaches and from your communities.”
Most of these dignitaries went out of their way to thank the people who made this week-long event possible, including big sponsors like Manitoba Hydro and the over 800 registered volunteers who will be largely responsible running things throughout the rest of the week.
After all, low participation is the reason why Virden dropped out of hosting the Games in late 2016, which left Thompson organizers the arduous task of recruiting an army of volunteers within a significantly reduced timeframe.
“The unsung heroes in this whole thing are the people who are wearing the blue shirts,” said Sandra Ross-Hitch, co-chair of the Games’ host society. “We can’t say enough about them.”
As someone who helped get the ball rolling on this whole affair back in January 2017, Mayor Dennis Fenske provided these athletes with some words of wisdom before the competition officially began on Monday.
“I would ask that each and every athlete take the time to enjoy this moment, take the time to enjoy the competition, take the time to enjoy the friendships and take the time to create memories that will last a lifetime.”
This year’s Manitoba Winter Games will showcase a variety of athletic competitions, include archery, badminton, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, swimming, gymnastics, hockey, ringette, speed skating, wrestling and table tennis.
To view the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games schedule in its entirety, please visit Sport Manitoba’s official website.