Jeff Hnatiuk knows the clock will soon be ticking for Winnipeg.
“I’ve sat on the Canada Games Council as the future, future rep,” the CEO of the 2017 Canada Summer Games says. “I’ve sat at meetings for Sherbrooke in 2013 and Prince George this year.
“When the Canada Games flag is passed to our mayor on Sunday, it’s showtime for us.”
This will be the third time for the Games in Manitoba, but the first time in Winnipeg. Brandon hosted the Winter Games in 1979 and the Summer Games in 1997. Brandon had put in a bid for 2017, but it was turned down, primarily because of problems with the swimming pool.
Hnatiuk says two other events have already been scheduled for outside Winnipeg.
“The rowing venue has always been a challenge for Winnipeg and Manitoba in general. In 1997, the rowing events were held near Minnedosa, but that venue would have required major work to meet the standards this time.”
Instead the provincial rowing association suggested Rabbit Lake, near Kenora, Ont. for the rowing.
“It’s a very good site,” Hnatiuk said. “It’s about two hours away from Winnipeg, so we are going to establish a satellite village there for the competitors and officials.
“We’ll make sure they’re as engaged as possible in the other main events, such as the opening ceremonies.”
They will be using the same principle for the sailing events, which will be held at Gimli.
“It’s about an hour north of Winnipeg, and they have a very strong yacht club there. We will also be setting up a satellite village there during the Games.”
As happened in Prince George, many of the venues will be getting facelifts before the 2017 Games, including the track at the University of Manitoba and new bulkhead at the Pan Am Pool. The biggest physical legacy, Hnatiuk says, isn’t really even a venue.
“We are developing the Canada Games Sport for Life Centre. It will house many of the provincial sports organizations, as well as the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. There will also be sport medicine and sport science components, as well as a 120,000 square foot training fieldhouse.”
More important than the physical legacies of the Games, he says, are the people ones.
“We had an opportunity to meet with Chief Frederick and councillors from Lheidlhi T’enneh, and talk about the positive relationship they have with the Games. That is also a legacy for the community, and we will be looking for ways to create those relationships with our own First Nations.”
He figures about 12 staff members and community leaders from the 2017 committee were in Prince George over the past two weeks.
“We were very fortunate that the Host Society allowed us to shadow them a lot during the past two weeks. It gave us a chance to get some of our questions answered.”
The 2017 Canada Summer Games will mark the 50th anniversary of the Games, as well as the 150th birthday of Canada.
“We anticipate having close to 6,000 volunteers in place,” Hnatiuk said. “We have the opportunity to do some significant programming to mark those anniversaries.”
And while the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg will be hosted by the largest city to ever serve that role, Hnatiuk sees that as a potential hurdle.
“We are the largest city to host the Games, so how do we raise the level of awareness in the city of how important the Games are?”