Regaining the torch
Those who were around for the 1992 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games will recall the exuberance that filled the air over The Carbonear Recreation Complex on Aug. 15 of that year when more than 5,000 spectators turned out for the opening ceremonies.
The large crowd burst into wild applause when former hockey great George Faulkner lit the flame to officially open the Games.
Premier Clyde Wells shared the stage that day with the patron of the ’92 Summer Games, Frank Moores, who was premier when the first provincial Games were held in 1976.
Former Harbour Grace mayor Paul Moriarty said: “ We have silenced the skeptics, who couldn’t imagine two rival towns coming together in a spirit of co-operation to stage such an event as this for the benefit of the citizens of both. We have shown ... the whole of Newfoundland and Labrador that nothing takes precedence over the youth of our towns.”
Chairing the host committee for the ’ 92 Games turned out to be the “experience of a lifetime” for Doug Moores of Harbour Grace. “I’ll never forget it,” he told the crowd that day. After six days of competition, then lieutenant-governor Fred Russell was on hand for the closing ceremonies on St. Francis Field in Harbour Grace.
The excitement in the air was mixed with a hint of sadness as athletes bid farewell to their competitors and the new friends they had made.
Some of those on hand that day realized the Games was an historic event that might never again be seen in the area in their lifetime.
It was a feeling that did not escape the lieutenantgovernor. The closing of any event is always tinged with a degree of sadness, “ but that feeling should be eased somewhat, because I feel certain you have enough happy memories to last a lifetime.”
Describing the Games as an “outstanding success,” he observed, “the success of the Games here has certainly strengthened their foundation.”
We were reminded of all of those words and moments and a lot more last week when it was announced that the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games would be returning to Carbonear and Harbour Grace in 2012, exactly 20 years after the first.
While there will be similarities between the two events, there are already striking differences.
For openers, only a fraction of the funding spent on the 1992 event will be available this time around.
Thanks to the sports facilities left behind from the first Games, the kind of big bucks spent on infrastructure at that time will not be needed this time around. But it will be a great opportunity for some cosmetic upgrades to those facilities, which were described at the time as “the envy of the province and second to none in Canada.”
That was part of the great legacy left behind by the 1992 event.
Another stark contrast this time around is the timeframe.
The host committee which put together the 1992 event had almost four years to work on them, having first learned the next Summer Games ball would be in their court just after the 1988 Summer Games in Mount Pearl.
This time around the committee, yet to be put in place, have roughly 18 months before the flame-lighting ceremony.
The 1,500 young athletes from all over the province who competed in the last Games were fed at the CBN Curling Club and Carbonear Lions Den. With neither of those facilities any longer available, catering to the athletes next year is expected to present a challenge.
More than 1,400 volunteers helped make the 1992 Games the success they were.
Doug Moores, who led that group at that time, believes enough dedicated volunteers are still out there, ready, willing and able to get involved and make this event another success.
Since last week’s announcement, the number of people calling Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs and expressing interest in volunteering would confirm that belief.
Despite the constraints of time and money, and the challenges of finding suitable catering facilities, we are confident the 2012 Summer Games will be another success.
The best of luck to all those who will lace up their sneakers as volunteers and athletes for the 2012 NL Summer Games.