The Games’ legacy lives on

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Weekly

Volunteers watch the Closing Ceremonies of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games at Shell Place on August 16. Thousands of residents volunteered to help make the Games’ possible. PHOTO: Joanne Leitch, Connect Weekly.

Volunteers watch the Closing Ceremonies of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games at Shell Place on August 16. Thousands of residents volunteered to help make the Games’ possible. PHOTO: Joanne Leitch, Connect Weekly.

It is hard to believe that – just over a week ago – the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games came to a close in Wood Buffalo. The closing ceremonies signalled the end of 10 days of excitement in our region; a time when we welcomed thousands of visitors and enjoyed sporting competition unlike anything we have ever quite experienced here before. The question I have seen arise since the Games ended though, as we reflect on the experience, is what the legacy of these Games has been.

One could suggest the legacy is in the amenities that were constructed or re-developed in advance of the Games, as there has certainly been some degree of desire to ensure all our facilities were capable of hosting this event. One could alternately suggest the legacy lies with the visitors who came to our region to participate, going home with a new perspective on the community that fuels the oil sands industry. One could wonder if the legacy is found in the economic spin-off benefits, such as the hotel rooms that were used during the Games and the restaurant meals that were consumed.

I believe, however, that the legacy is found instead in the people of this region, who participated in hosting a massive event of a scope that was daunting at the outset and that went very quickly from vision, to plan, to reality.

I believe, however, that the legacy is found instead in the people of this region, who participated in hosting a massive event of a scope that was daunting at the outset and that went very quickly from vision, to plan, to reality.

The legacy is in the capacity we built over ten days, and in the years that came before them. Over the course of the Games, I watched as one of my neighbours left her home very early every day, her yellow volunteer t-shirt on, headed to an event of one sort or another. She would return late that night, looking tired, but happy.

The next morning off, she would go again – yellow t-shirt on again. I marvelled a bit at her stamina, as she was clearly committing long hours to this event and there was no doubt it was exhausting, but there was a determination and fortitude in her demeanour.

I saw this in every person involved in the delivery of the Games over those days. From opening ceremonies to closing moments, from the days long before the athletes arrived to after they departed, I saw a level of commitment and dedication that both astonished and delighted me.

The Games have left other legacies – for instance Team BC donated over $1500 to the Mi KIDS program operated by the Regional Recreation Corporation, a program designed to enable local youth to participate in sport, recreation and culture by removing the financial barrier – but the true legacy may well be in the confidence, attitude and capacity of the people of this region.

I think we have always believed we could accomplish anything in this region. But, in August of 2015, we proved it with an army of volunteers focused on one goal: ensuring the success of an event that had been years in the making. Volunteers learned new skills, forged new bonds, made new connections and developed new networks, as they brought events like kayaking and soccer to life; interacting not only with visitors to our region, but with each other.

We often speak of legacies as if they must be in some way concrete – money or mortar, bricks or buildings. Legacies, though, can be constructed of different materials, like those qualities we develop within ourselves and within our communities. By focussing on the concrete legacies we often overlook the most valuable legacies of all, which are the ones that truly contribute to our community and strengthen us for the future.

During a time of economic uncertainty the Western Canada Summer Games 2015 Wood Buffalo served as an opportunity to showcase our region, community and industry, and a chance to build new relationships with visitors.
More importantly, though, it allowed us to strengthen our bonds with each other, to come together to deliver a successful event and to show that we can accomplish virtually anything, particularly when we work in unity to do so.

The legacy in Wood Buffalo from August 2015 is truly measured in our people, and what we learned along the way in tackling a daunting challenge. It is the kind of legacy you cannot measure in the standard manner, perhaps, but maybe that is why it is of even more value as some of the things we can never measure – empathy, love, compassion, as examples – are ones we cannot measure.

It is an incredible legacy, and a gift for the future, as we face it with confidence and certainty that we can handle whatever it happens to bring our way, as long as we take it on together.

– Connect Weekly –