Saturday, May 31, 2008

Counting down

Counting down
A flurry of activity, from fundraising to building sporting venues, continues as the host committee pulls out all the stops to make the 2009 Canada Games a triumph

The Guardian
Joseph Spriet, president of the 2009 Canada Games Host Society, has great designs on being part of putting on a top-notch
competition next year for hundreds of the country’s top amateur athletes. Guardian photo by Jim Day

In many ways, the 2009 Canada Games is a numbers game.
And some of those figures are rather eye popping.
The budget to stage the two-week long summer event in venues across Prince Edward Island may be the most dizzying of all the tallies.
The total Games budget is $33 million, says Joseph Spriet, president of the 2009 Canada Games Host Society — a group mandated the daunting task of planning and delivering an outstanding athlete-centred multi-sport and cultural event.
Funds from three levels of government are accounted for with Ottawa committing $13 million, the province good for $11.5 million and Island municipalities tossing in a couple million bucks more.
Money not in the bank just yet, however, is the whopping $7 million expected to be raised by the Friends of the Games Host Society. Spriet didn’t want to identify the shortfall, but suggested a considerable fundraising effort still lies ahead in the months leading up to the Games, which run next year from Aug. 15 to 29.
“We have half a dozen major sponsors . . . plus a lot of minor ones,” he said.
Anticipated cost overruns may leave both the province and the Friends of the Games Host Society on the hook to cough up even more money then either had bargained for.
“Cost overruns this year are a fact of life,” said Spriet.
Escalating fuel, labour and steel costs are contributing to more pricey contracts to get the venues up to snuff, said Tyler Richardson, vice-president of facilities division.
Progress on the bulk of the 40 different venues being developed in 18 communities across P.E.I. to host the 18 different sports is generally on schedule, he said.
There has been scrambling, though, for the major athletic facilities in both Summerside and Charlottetown.
Work, though, began Monday at UPEI with Island Coastal breaking ground on its $5.6-million contract with completion expected in November. The athletics facility calls for a 400-metre synthetic competition track, natural grass infield, grandstand with permanent seating for 1,400 spectators (with capacity for temporary seating of 1,900), timing tower, results room and equipment storage.
The Summerside project calls for a turf field, beach volleyball venue and three new tennis courts. With a tender call slated for June 9, some urgency exists in hammering out a deal with the municipality. Spriet said an agreement is “on the cusp” of being reached.
The return on a sizable investment — even if that expenditure turns out to be a fair bit more than first anticipated — still holds great promise, the upbeat president is quick to note.
During the bid process, a study determined the 2009 Canada Games would be worth between $75 million and $100 million in economic impact to the province.
The Games are expected to draw some 10,000 visitors to Prince Edward Island with 8,000 of those spectators expected to stay overnight and spend about $80 per day while 2,000 one-day visitors are anticipated to dole out about $51 per day.
Then there are the approximately 4,400 athletes, coaches and managers who will be here over the two weeks of the event pumping money into the province.
Large exposure will also be a strong payoff from the Games for a province desperately looking to boost tourism numbers.
Close to 200 media representatives are expected to cover the Games, filing stories, pictures and video of sporting events in a host of Island settings.
Spriet also expects more than 100 hours of total television coverage among the different stations that will broadcast portions of the event.
Long after the final medals have been handed out, the province should enjoy a lasting benefit from the Games. The facilities being built and upgraded, to the tune of more than $14 million, for the event will prove quite valuable, suggested Spriet.
He said the facilities, built to national standards with all the bells and whistles, should go a long way to helping the province in the future attract national sporting events that they could not otherwise have drawn here.
“And also the access to these facilities for the rest of us Islanders,” said Spriet.
“They’re going to be there for our youth.”
Above all, though, the number one priority is to make the Games the best possible experience for the participants — Canadian athletes.
David MacNeill, CEO of operations, wants the competition, accommodations, food and transportation to all be top notch for the wrestlers, swimmers, cyclists, baseball players and other competitors.
“Athlete-centred Games is our absolute priority,” he said.
Island athletes will naturally feel the glare of the spotlight competing in their home province.
To help make them shine, The Best Ever Program was established in 2006 with $1.4 million in funding from the Department of Communities and Cultural Affairs being spent to assist in the training and development of local athletes.
Program manager Ted Lawlor said the hope is for Island athletes to earn better results than in past Games.
About 257 Island athletes are expected to compete in 17 of the 18 sports, up from the 206 athletes that took part in the 2005 Canada Summer Games that competed in 12 out of the 16 sports.
Island athletes will compete in 2009 for the first time in canoe/kayak and rowing but will not participate in diving.
Lawlor said expectations are high for Team P.E.I. in both male and female soccer as well as wrestling and athletics (track and field).
“I think our expectation is a couple of medals will appear,” he said.
Islanders will not only buy into the Games with their tax dollars, but many will invest their time and talent.
An army of 6,000 volunteers will be put to a dizzying array of tasks, everything from setting up beds to transporting canoes.
Myrtle Jenkins-Smith, vice president of volunteer services for the 2009 Canada Games, said having the event held across the Island makes the task easier of rallying the troops to get involved.
“It’s a Prince Edward Island event and people are proud to host it,” she said.
“I think Islanders will step up to the plate and make it happen. They want to be a part of it.”

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