Summer Games’ live on with GM

By CURTIS J. PHILLIPS, Connect Weekly

Kim Rizzi, general manager of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, at the Closing Ceremonies on August 16, 2015.  PHOTO: Joanne Leitch, Connect Weekly.

Kim Rizzi, general manager of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, at the Closing Ceremonies on August 16, 2015. PHOTO: Joanne Leitch, Connect Weekly.

It is 8:04 p.m. on August 16, 2015. Kim Rizzi, having just pulled into her driveway, is sitting in her car. Home at last, after a super busy ten days. Finally a moment by herself… She answers her cell phone for a quick interview. This is the life of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games (WCSG) general manager.

Rizzi – with a resume that features involvement in 14 major multi-sporting events, including: Olympic, Pan American and (more close to our neck of the woods), the Arctic Winter Games – arrived in Fort McMurray in July 2012.

She had just finished a six-year stint based in Montreal, Quebec in the role of executive director of the Canada Deaf Olympic Committee and the Canadian Deaf Sports Association.

Working with the deaf, had, what she calls “an impact on my life in that I learned to appreciate things more than I did up until that time.”

This experience continues to be with her on a daily basis, in that, she admits “when I am spelling sometimes, I will sign it. That was the culture I was working with and had to learn.” Her two children, Camilla and Anthony, also learned sign language.

But now it is work, a quick interview followed by some quality time with her husband, Franco and children.
“I am a little nostalgic that it is all over,” said Rizzi, of the 2015 WCSG, which were held in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo from August 7-16, 2015 featuring 18 sports and more than 2,500 athletes from Canada’s four western provinces and three northern territories.

“I am thrilled to death for Fort McMurray and I am overwhelmed that everything went so well and proud of my team and volunteers (more than 3,000) that made this such a huge success.”

“I am thrilled to death for Fort McMurray and I am overwhelmed that everything went so well and proud of my team and volunteers (more than 3,000) that made this such a huge success.”

Staging a major multi-sporting event, no matter the scale, is “fundamentally the same,” said Rizzi. “You have to provide the same service and keep it athlete focused. That is the key in making games a success.”

But in Fort McMurray there was a different vibe.

“Fort McMurray had a lot on the line with these Games,” said Rizzi, who was born in Dauphin, Manitoba and graduated from Brandon University, where she played basketball for the Bobcats for five seasons.
“Of all the Games I was a part of, Fort McMurray has had the most pride and showed it.”

“My goal was to make these kids feel like rock stars and Olympians. And from the time they arrived at the airport, until the time they left… you could see it in their eyes. I had a few good cries.”

She continued, “The city never looked so good and the pride that went into each event and the level of detail that went into it showcased our community and I am proud of that. When I look back at what we did and looking back at the business plan and how we executed the games… we knocked it out of the ballpark.”

When asking if there was any special moment at these 2015 WCSG that stick out for her, Rizzi pauses. After a few moments, voice choking with emotion, she responds: “My goal was to make these kids feel like rock stars and Olympians. And from the time they arrived at the airport, until the time they left… you could see it in their eyes. I had a few good cries.”

With a few more weeks to go until she leaves her position, Rizzi said: “After that, I have no idea what I want to do come October. We love this place and we have invested in the community. We worked with a lot of great people and made some good friends. We call this home,” she expressed.

“When at other (sporting events) for a period of time, we knew we would be leaving. We are not talking like that right now,” she said. “We have built a life and have learned to love and live in the community.”

– Connect Weekly –