Win­ter Games up­date

Look­ing back at the year lead­ing up to the 2014 pro­vin­cial Win­ter Games

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS BAL­LARD chris.g.bal­lard@live.com

The 2014 New­found­land and Labrador Win­ter Games is set to kick off on March 1 and run unil the 9th. It has been a busy 12-month pe­riod lead­ing up to the Games, and ev­ery­thing ap­pears set for what is sure to be a se­ries of hotly con­tested events.

The dawn of a new year is a time for pause and thought.

It’s that time of year to re­flect on the year that was and to look ahead at the chal­lenges the weeks and months ahead will bring.

Brad Pitcher, or­ga­nizer of the 2014 New­found­land and Labrador Win­ter Games, is do­ing a lot of both th­ese days. He and his team have been hard at work over the past year to en­sure the best pos­si­ble Win­ter Games ex­pe­ri­ence for the town of Clarenville and for the over 700 ath­letes ex­pected to de­scend on the town dur­ing the first week of March.

Plans for the Games were kicked into over­drive in 2013 as Pitcher and team worked day in and day out through­out the year to en­sure all the pieces started to fall into place. The first ma­jor event that took place in 2013 was a launch event in March.

“The first event we had was the one-year kick off at White Hills on March 1,” Pitcher said.

“That was our first big pro­mo­tion for the Games. That was when we also launched our theme song and our web­site. That was the first big thing that oc­curred for us in 2013.”

Be­tween jug­gling large Win­ter Games projects, Pitcher ex­plained that cer­tain tasks were part of an on­go­ing process, like the re­cruit­ment of vol­un­teers and spon­sors. While ini­tial in­ter­est was high, Pitcher is only now start­ing to see vol­un­teers com­mit their time for the Games in March, as many were un­aware of their sched­ules a year ahead of the event.

“A large por­tion of our time was spent try­ing to re­cruit spon­sors and vol­un­teers,” he said.

“We have had tremen­dous suc­cess in re­cruit­ing spon­sors from through­out the town and cor­po­rate spon­sors through­out the prov­ince. Peo­ple are re­ally start­ing to come on board now as vol­un­teers. With dif­fer­ent sched­ules, it’s tough.”

The past year was a busy one for the Games com­mit­tee. With up­wards of 120 peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing their time on var­i­ous com­mit­tees and sub­com­mit­tees, Pitcher en­sured that mak­ing sure th­ese peo­ple were ap­pre­ci­ated was on the agenda in 2013.

“In Oc­to­ber, we had a night with all of our sub­com­mit­tee mem­bers and that was when we fig­ured out how many peo­ple were di­rectly in­volved with the Games,” he said.

“We had 120 vol­un­teers there that night in Oc­to­ber as we gave our plan for the 2014. They’re all sub­com­mit­tee mem­bers un­der the 25 peo­ple on our com­mit­tee. Each com­mit­tee chair spends prob­a­bly 10 hours per week do­ing things for the Games. All th­ese peo­ple have full time jobs where they work 40 hours. They have kids and vol­un­teer with other things.”

With­out cor­po­rate sup­port, pulling off an event like this would be near im­pos­si­ble. That’s why they planned a spe­cial night for spon­sors in Novem­ber.

“That’s when we launched ( for­mer Sport­sCen­tre an­chors) Jay (On­rait) and Dan (O’Toole) as the hosts for the clos­ing cer­e­monies.”

Lots of work

Projects and events aside, it’s a busy day-to-day grind for Pitcher and staff. He ad­mits there are lofty ex­pec­ta­tions in place for the 2014 pro­vin­cial Win­ter Games and that some­times in­volves a lot of long hours.

“Here in the of­fice, our lights turn on at 9:00 in the morn­ing and they don’t turn off un­til 9:00 at night from Sun­day to Satur­day,” he said.

“We’re 75 days away, so things are mad­ness. The com­mit­tee’s am­bi­tions are ex­tremely high so with high am­bi­tion comes a big work­load.”

Aside from plan­ning the lo­gis­tics of the Games them­selves, plan­ning events around sports that are less fa­mil­iar pro­vides its own chal­lenge.

“Some of th­ese sports are new to us,” Pitcher said.

“Like gym­nas­tics. We haven’t had a lot of com­pe­ti­tions in that sport around here. Try­ing to get an overview of how the sport works is new and has been chal­leng­ing. It’s not like you host the Win­ter Games ev­ery year. We had to do ev­ery­thing for the first time, like try­ing to find prices for medals, a caul­dron, a torch.”

Amidst all the hard work came a lot of fun and en­joy­ment for those in­volved and Pitcher is par­tic­u­larly fond of the torch and caul­dron that is to be lit dur­ing the Games. While the ma­jor­ity of the in­volve­ment of the Games took place on home soil, find­ing all the right pieces for the Games took an in­ter­na­tional ef­fort.

“The caul­dron is prob­a­bly one of the coolest things we’re do­ing,” Pitcher said with a chuckle.

“We have three engi­neers, three welders, a cou­ple of propane and burner spe­cial­ists work­ing on it. It’s go­ing to be well lit dur­ing the Games. It’s un­be­liev­able. To even find a torch has been chal­leng­ing. We bought our torch from a com­pany that sells torches to Spe­cial Olympics. One of our sub­com­mit­tee mem­bers saw a sign of theirs in Florida. We or­dered the torch from Ok­la­homa City. Noth- ing is easy. Our medals are be­ing pro­duced in Michi­gan. The burner for the caul­dron is com­ing from Penn­syl­va­nia.”

The past year has been filled with a lot of hard work and a lot of mem­o­ries and Pitcher said there are a few mo­ments that stand out in his mind.

“In May, we in­tro­duced (the Win­ter Games mas­cot) Bou,” he said.

“That was one of my favourite ones. The kids re­ally seemed to en­joy that event. That’s when we an­nounced the sports as well. That was a lot of fun.”

“I try to be an avid golfer, so I en­joyed our golf tour­na­ment a lot. I en­joyed the spon­sor nights and an­nounc­ing Jay and Dan and see­ing how ex­cited ev­ery­one got. We’re re­ally look­ing to have a good Games.”

What’s left?

Even with a year of hard work in the rearview mir­ror, there’s still plenty to be done be­fore the prov­ince’s top young ath­letes bring their tal­ents to Clarenville, a ma­jor one be­ing the trans­for­ma­tion of a school to an ath­letes vil­lage.

“Our big thing is mak­ing sure we have ev­ery­thing ready for the ath­letes when they come here,” Pitcher said.

“Turn­ing a school from a day-to­day school to an ath­letes vil­lage to house 700 kids is go­ing to be fun. We’re go­ing to take some time to make sure we’re pre­pared for all the dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments, ship­ping the equip­ment in and set­ting up the gyms.”

The gym will serve dual pur­poses through the Games.

For ex­am­ple, for the first half of the week one gym will be used for bas­ket­ball and two days later, it will be switched for a venue for gym­nas­tics.

Try­ing to get the ath­letes’ vil­lage ready is go­ing to be one of the big­ger tasks; with the process of feed­ing 700 peo­ple un­der one roof and lin­ing up en­ter­tain­ment for them.

“Once the Games are over at five each night, there’s en­ter­tain­ment for them, from ma­gi­cians and hyp­no­tists to bouncy cas­tles; lots of fun things to keep them en­ter­tained af­ter hours,” says Pitcher.

Pitcher and team will have a lot more free time on their hands once the Games have come and gone. He just hopes all the hard work pays off when March rolls around. “It will be worth it,” he said. “It’s go­ing to be a great way to show­case the town of Clarenville. I al­ways say we’re a very recre­ation-ori­ented com­mu­nity and to be able to high­light our recre­ation and to see the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment through all of our spon­sors and even in the growth of our town over the last few years, it will all be worth it in the end.”

Photo by Chris Bal­lard/Spe­cial to the TC Me­dia

Clarenville 2014 Win­ter Games man­ager Brad Pitcher and ad­min­is­tra­tor Pen­ney Adams strike a pose with a sign pro­mot­ing the NL Win­ter Games in March.

Photo by Chris Bal­lard/Spe­cial to TC Me­dia

Clarenville Win­ter Games Mas­cot, Bou, does a dance dur­ing Sav­ing Her Seren­ity’s per­for­mance of the Games’ theme song, Ready, Set, Snow. The event was the re­veal of the Mas­cot and the sports that will be fea­tured at the pro­vin­cial Games.

Photo by Kevin Cur­ley/TC Me­dia

Brad Pitcher, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the New­found­land and Labrador Win­ter Games 2014, with a model of the caul­dron that will be built for the event.

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