| Canada Games athletes wave farewell |
It wasn’t over until Smothered in Hugs sang them home.
But that end-of-show performance by the Prince Edward Island band wrapped up the official closing ceremony for the 2009 Canada Games on Saturday afternoon.
The stands at the UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place in Charlottetown were for the most part filled as the 2,300-plus athletes who competed in the final week of the two-week long summer games marched with pride down the stairs to the track and to their seating places smack dab in front of the stage.
P.E.I. swimmer Rhea Hurnik, 16, of New Dominion had mixed feelings about the Games coming to an end.
“I don’t know. It was like our whole summer and our whole year was building up to this and it’s hard to believe that it actually happened and it’s all over now,” she said.
“It’s sad but it’s really exciting still. It’s hard to believe that it actually happened and that we were part of it.”
The crowd was loud in its cheering, but overshadowing even their combined voices was an ebullient bunch of young people with the P.E.I. Dream Dance Team who danced and shouted their cheerleader-like greetings to each and every province and territory with equal gusto Saturday.
Rebecca Drummond, 12, of Summerside and Celia Koughan of Stratford, who both play children of Avonlea parts in the musical Anne and Gilbert, were two members of this young dance crew who were on the entertainment list to spice things up at the ceremony’s end.
“We’re doing a finale number and we’re hoping that everybody in the audience will dance a little part with us,” Rebecca said.
“We taught all the teams to dance so hopefully everyone will join in for the last number. It’s going to be awesome,” added Celia, who is now a big fan of the Canada Games.
“It’s exciting. It’s such a big event and it’s really cool to have it here with all these
people,’’ she added.
A huge crowd of Canada Games volunteers sporting their bright red volunteer jackets was crammed in the stands to take in the event. For most the work was done. However, Kaye Larkin of Cornwall and Theresa Lambe of Stratford were still on duty in the stands, continuing to provide a volunteer first aid presence for the spectators.
“It was a great run and I hear lots of good comments from people from every province . . . saying the good job that P.E.I. has done for these games and how they covered the Island,” Larkin said.
“Other places have it in one venue but here they were in Montague and Cardigan and Souris, all over, and people were so friendly to them.”
Michele MacAulay of Stratford, along with her husband Ron MacAulay and their niece Maria Mahar, were there to see her son Greg, who is a golfer, be part of the closing ceremony.
“Yes, we actually saw him and got a picture,” she smiled, glad that her son was part of this moment in the 2009 Canada Games history.
“We’re very, very proud. It’s wonderful.”
Gary Lunn, minister of State for Sport, announced during the ceremony, that the federal government has updated its Sport Canada policy on women in sport, which was originally published in 1986.
“The new policy entitled Actively Engaged: A Policy on Sport for Women and Girls will foster a Canadian sport system that will provide quality sport experiences to ensure women and girls are actively involved and equally supported in a full range of roles.”
Premier Robert Ghiz reflected on the Canada Games first province-wide event.
“Every Islander has been proud to show off our beautiful province and to welcome such a great group of young Canadians. . . ,” he said.
“We have all worked together, communities across our province, and were proud to host many different events. And I’m so proud that Prince Edward Island was the first province to have held such an event on a province-wide basis.”
Carolyn Bertram, P.E.I.’s minister for Sport said these past few weeks of the Canada Games have been more than just a sports competition.
“The Games are a festival of our youth, a celebration of connecting people from across our great country, a time of enthusiasm, friendship and of course a lot of fun.”
P.E.I. was awarded the Jack Pelech Award for exhibiting as a team such atributes as performance, sportsmanship and friendship.
The Canada Games Flag Points winner as top team was Ontario and the Centennial Cup as most improved team went to Quebec.
The entertainment lineup included groups such as local groups Vishten, Smothered in Hugs and Halifax’s Squid.
Former Olympic sprinter Jared Connaughton of New Haven was the first P.E.I. native to win two gold medals at one Canada Games, which he did in 2005 in Regina, Sask.
To emphasize the importance of the games on an athlete’s career, he told the athletes and the audience of his thoughts after he competed in track and field in London, Ont., in 2001 and finished third last.
“It was an opportunity for me to acknowledge that I had to make a commitment to my sport and four years later in Regina I went from almost last (in 2001) to first in the 100 (metres) and first in the 200 (metre races). So it was a turning point in my life,” he said.
“To me the Games is such an amazing thing and it’s done so much for my community. Only a few years ago this very place (the UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place) was a swamp almost so this has come so far and the legacy of Canada Games isn’t just these two weeks, it’s a legacy that will carry on for future athletes.”