|Mike Lushington copy of Grains of Sand of Nov. 27|
As some of you are aware, I write this column from Dalhousie, right in the middle of Canada Winter Games territory and the site of the Athlete's Village. In fact the village is built on the soccer field of Dalhousie Regional High School, where I spent all but the first two of my thirty years' teaching career.
I have been returning to the school two or three nights a week since September, giving Tourism and Hospitality courses for volunteers for the games. These courses are part of the accreditation process through which every volunteer has to pass in order to be able to work at the Games. Originally there were two such courses, each two-and -a-half hours long. One deals with general aspects of tourism on the North Shores and surrounding the Games themselves; and the other focuses on more specific aspects of hosting responsibilities during the two weeks of the Games themselves. Recently we have begun to combine the two, in order to get the job done before the opening dates arrive.
In every way, hosting a Canada Games is a huge responsibility. At times it seems like the actual sporting events are just a frill to the larger business of setting up housing and transportation for the athletes and their support people. The old soccer field at DRHS now has nearly one hundred portable houses on it, all neatly arranged in rows and each capable of housing nearly twenty people. The miles of sewer piping, water lines, and electrical cables that had to be buried in the ground are no longer visible but their installation was a major undertaking in itself.
Transportation to and from Games venues promised (threatens?) to be the largest challenge of them all. Each day during competition, sixteen hundred athletes, their coaches, team managers and all of their equipment will have to be transported from the village to Bathurst and Beresford, to Campbellton and Mount Restigouche in neighbouring Quebec, and to various points in between. As well, Games officials, volunteers, visiting dignitaries, and supporters of the Games will need transportation. Some of this will have to take place during snowstorms and other challenges of nature itself.
As the magnitude of the project begins to take hold, volunteers are becoming more and more excited. When I began doing the training courses back in the balmy evenings of September, attendance was spotty and energy was low. Somehow, the Games still seemed a long way off. Attendance peaked a couple of weeks ago, with between twenty and thirty people attending each session and has begun to taper off again, in part (I imagine) because of the approaching Christmas season. These recent sessions have been lively and exciting, as local people begin to realize that they are directly involved in what is, undoubtedly, the largest event ever to hit the North Shore - and which may be the largest such for the entire province.
With all of this, I think that it is appropriate that most of the columns that I will be generating between now and the Games will focus on them. It is a huge undertaking, one in which everyone in the province can feel some pride and ownership. It is also a huge celebration of all that is good and meaningful in amateur sport in Canada.
Mike Lushington, Dalhousie