Winter Games update
Looking back at the year leading up to the 2014 provincial Winter Games
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.”
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.”
Clarenville 2014 Winter Games manager Brad Pitcher and administrator Penney Adams strike a pose with a sign promoting the NL Winter Games in March.
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.
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.