Pembroke – With the Ontario Winter Games only a year away, the push is on for volunteers to run this $1.3 million event which will see athletes participating in such varied events as ringette, kickboxing, wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing.
“We are focusing on populating our chairs,” Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon told a ZOOM meeting of Renfrew County. “We have 17 boxes to fill ranging from accommodation to administration, logistics, marketing, finance, medical, food, services, registration.”
The reeve serves as the chair of the winter games which will be held in March 2022. The event is anticipated to have a spin-off effect of up to $5 million for the county
“It is amazing the complexity of this organization,” he said. “It is likely 700 volunteers.”
He said right now consultation is going on with the venues to decide if it is best to have all the events in one week or to split them between two weekends. There are many venues being used for the games which go from Madawaska and Calabogie to Renfrew, Petawawa, Pembroke and into Ottawa for some events like bowling.
“We are anticipating about 3,500 people and of course there will be accommodations and transportation,” he said.
There will be a committee for each function and there will be terms of reference for the committee, as well as training for volunteers.
“That is why you see a recommendation or the job description of the general manger,” he said.
Advertising has already begun for a general manager. The manager will be a specialist used to managing complex events, he said.
“Ours is more complex because we are involving so many parts of our community,” he said.
This task is more than just handing it to existing County of Renfrew staff, he said.
As soon as the venues are tightened up, the representatives from the provincial sanctioning bodies will come to look at the facilities, he said.
“We are very excited,” he said. “We are working hard, but it does not feel like hard work. It is very interesting.”
Reeve Emon said he is comfortable the county can do this and he is excited about the partners stepping up to serve. He urged the assembled mayors and reeves to encourage people in their communities to step up to volunteer.
“We want to start a direct communication with people who have an interest,” he said.
There is a time commitment and expectation of volunteers, he added.
Greater Madawaska Mayor Brian Hunt asked if a call could go forward for municipalities to put this on their website.
“I have some volunteers and I have a person who wants to chair a committee,” he said. “To have a broader distribution, I wonder if we can have something coming from the committee itself.”
Warden Debbie Robinson said she knows the games will be fantastic.
“It will bring our entire county together after a couple of rough years,” she said.
The winter games are also anticipated to be a legacy event with a surplus of $104,000 expected after all expenses are paid.
Reeve Emon told the Leader while the games are still a year away, the push to find volunteers is beginning now so volunteers can be matched with the best slots. Along with the appeal through the media, municipalities will also be involved in passing on the information to community members about volunteering.
The Ontario Winter Games are held every two years and there is an organization providing guidance to the county organizing team.
“We have two people assigned to this form the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport,” Reeve Emon explained. “They have a template for us to go on.”
Each event is a sanctioned event and there are competitions for the athletes to be eligible to be in the Ontario Winter Games, he said.
“These are elite athletes,” he said. “These folks practice long and hard and have coaches.”
Even the meals for the athletes are quite specific to provide optimal nutrition, he added.
The last two times the event has been held in Orillia and having the event in Renfrew County is not only a chance to see high level sporting here, but also to showcase the county, he added.
“As soon as we get the venues confirmed we will advertise,” he noted. “We expect there will be spectators. Part of this is to expose our community to these events. Curling is common, but fencing may not be.”
Events will be throughout the county, including Weightlifting in Eganville and speed skating in Barry’s Bay, as well as Wushu (martial arts) in Deep River and Ringette in Cobden. Several events will be held at Garrison Petawawa and both alpine skiing, para-alpine and snowboarding at Calabogie Peaks.
Reeve Emon said following the long period of closures and lockdown with COVID-19, this is an event people in the county to look forward to.
“We wanted to start re-introducing people back into the community,” he said. “We want them to enjoy mingling.”
If there are health restrictions in place at that time, the communities will abide by them, he said.
For now, the push is to begin the process of organizing 700 – or more – volunteers. They will do everything from being greeters of the athletes or working behind the scenes, he said.
“It is going to be a great event,” Reeve Emon said. “The county has good experience with big events like EXPO 150. We have the ability to do it really well and it leaves a lasting impression for our visitors and participants.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Ontario Winter Games 2022 is encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They should include some basic information on their interests and what their background is.