John Elzinga kicks off BC Summer Games group presentation to Lake Cowichan town council. With him are Jen Woike, centre, and Mona Kaiser. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

Lake Cowichan to host BC Summer Games opening ceremonies

There will be 3,700 participants coming to the region, 2,800 athletes.

It’s a huge undertaking, particularly as the Cowichan Valley has a smaller population than the usual venues, but we can do it.

That’s the message the BC Summer Games team of John Elzinga, Jen Woike, and Mona Kaiser had for Lake Cowichan town council when they visited recently.

From July 19-22, 2018, the Cowichan region will be hosting the BC Summer Games. And Lake Cowichan will take centre stage for the Games right off the bat.

“Lake Cowichan will be hosting one of the largest events for the Games, the opening ceremonies,” announced Games president Woike. “They’ll be held at Laketown Ranch. We’re very lucky to have this venue. Mona and John and I attended the 2016 Summer Games in Abbottsford. We walked into the venue, which was an indoor arena which holds 7,000. It was like being at a rock concert. I remember Mona and I leaning over and saying, ‘Oh, my God, what are we going to do?’ But after a little bit of brainstorming we decided we don’t want to be Abbottsford. We want to be Cowichan. How do we best showcase that? And one of the great supporters to come on board has been Greg Adams.

“We have the ability at our opening ceremonies to have no holds barred on how many we have. We are able to invite the community, which has not been done in the past because they’ve had a venue that only holds a certain amount of people. We have this great venue and we’re hoping the community will come out in full force. We’re hoping to have over 8,000 people at our opening ceremonies, which are free,” Woike said.

The entire Games will take an army of volunteers to bring to fruition.

“We’ve been working on this project for about six years now,” Elzinga said. “I’m happy to say we were successful against a lot of larger communities like Coquitlam, North Vancouver, and others to bring the 2018 Summer Games to our communities.”

There will be 3,700 participants coming to the region, 2,800 athletes and the rest coaches and officials.

“During the Games, we will prepare over 10,000 meals for those kids per day,” said Woike. “That’s a lot of food when you think about that,” she said. “And during the four days, we also become the fourth largest transportation system in British Columbia in moving all of those kids around this region. We’ll be presenting 1,800 medals at 260 separate medal presentations.

Putting it all together is going to take about 3,000 volunteers, Woike estimated. Currently, they’ve got 400.

“Which sounds like we have a long way to go, but we are way ahead, miles ahead, of where other communities have been at this time,” she said. “We had our first volunteer drive at Hometown Hockey two weeks ago. We were able to sign up 90 new volunteers just out of that event.

It’s all done with a budget of $625,000, which comes from BC Summer Games, and an additional $45,000 from the CVRD.

“That’s to feed, accommodate, support, transport and entertain 3,800 people for four days. If you do the math, it works out to about $4 per child per day,” Woike said.

“We rely heavily on fundraising to make these things happen and we have a specific directorate called Friends of the Games, and that’s their job: just to go out and to raise money. We’re hoping to raise about $300,000 in cash and in kind, minimum, in order to make these Games a success,” she said.

Lake Cowichan is also hosting canoe and kayak, both on the Cowichan River at Horseshoe Bend, as well as on Cowichan Lake.

Kaiser talked about the Games as a sporting event.

“This is the first multi-sport event for these athletes before they go on to bigger and better things. Those who do well here may go on to the Canada Games, the Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics. In fact, we will likely have an Olympic athlete, who was a former BC Summer Games athlete, come and speak at our opening ceremonies.”

For some athletes, though, this is their Olympics, and that’s a great reason to make it extra special for them, she said.

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