Editorial: Hosting winter games came with risks, but it’s paying off now

When the 2018 Manitoba Games committee began distributing money from their financial surplus this week and last to various community organizations, including the School District of Mystery Lake, the City of Thompson, Skate Thompson, Mystery Mountain Winter Park and the Thompson Wrestling Club, it might have been tempting to consider this delayed gratification as nothing more than the rightful inheritance of the people and organizations who chipped in to make the multi-sport competition nearly two years ago a success. 

Except of course that it isn’t.

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When the City of Thompson agreed to take on the challenge of putting together the games, after Virden bowed out, citing a lack of faith in the committee’s ability to whip up the necessary volunteer support, there were no guarantees. The committee had less than half of the usual amount of time to complete all the preparations and needed upgrades to sports facilities. There were naysayers and doubters. The city had to pledge to cover any financial losses incurred by the committee in putting on the games.

In short, it was a risky proposition.

The safer play for Thompson, which was turned down as host for the provincial winter games in 2014, would have been to decline the offer. 2018, you may recall, was the year Vale began shutting down their smelter and refinery, throwing many people out of work, inspiring some of them to move out of town, and generally throwing a wrench into the works of the local economy, while also unilaterally reducing the amount of money it would contribute to the City of Thompson in lieu of paying property taxes on its Manitoba Operations. If you had been asked to script a bad time for the city to be chosen to put together such a big event and to take on a potential financial burden if they didn’t turn a profit, you couldn’t have come up with a much worse scenario.

But it was also a good time to step up, because putting on a successful games would portray the community in a positive light to the many visitors who would attend and would give the people of the city, and particularly those who volunteered their time to make the event a reality, a bright spot during a time when they seemed to be few and far between, with the issuance of layoff notices occurring every few months.

The money being doled out by the games committee, which generated a surplus of approximately $160,000 from the event, is the product of calculated risk-taking that paid off. At a time when a lot of people could have argued that being conservative was the most prudent course of action, city leaders took the bull by the horns and chose the bolder course of action. Not every risk pays off of course, but it is worth absorbing the lesson that, while making the safe play is always safe, it isn’t always the best choice.

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