The countdown is officially on until the city of Prince George hosts the largest event ever seen in Central/Northern B.C., the 2015 Canada Games.
‘PG’, as it’s affectionately known, won the right to host the Canada Games in 2010. Remember the last big party British Columbia threw? The 2010 Winter Olympics. Those games cost billions of dollars. In comparison, the Canada Games is operating on a $50 million budget with an estimated economic impact of $90 million dollars. Big money on both fronts.
The real impact of the upcoming games goes beyond spreadsheets and dollar signs. An impact you’ll only truly understand and see if you’re here in PG and the surrounding communities.
Trust me, I know. PG is my hometown. I grew up here. Walked to College Heights Elementary School as a child, then College Heights Secondary as teenager, until we were old enough to drive. Then I was lucky to ride shotgun in my dad’s Ford Ranger pickup when my older brother drove the two blocks to CHSS, windows rolled down, stereo always cranked when we pulled into parking lot…(Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet)!
Growing up in PG was growing up in a true neighbourhood, a neighbourhood where kids walked to each other’s homes and played street hockey or ball until late into the evening. There were no “play dates” where parents screened each other prior to arranging playtime, which unfortunately seems to be the norm now. Only playdates we made centred around whose house we were meeting at and what park or tennis court we would play on. Every waking hour was spent either with friends, or making new ones.
Well over 20 years since I last saw my elementary school buddy Todd Barclay, he extended his hand and welcomed me back to PG when we ran into each other at the Canada Games Plaza. Me being me, I gave him a big hug. Same for Dave Smith, a former Jr. hockey/ball teammate who also made a point of saying hi. His wife, who I’d never met, extended an invite to stay with them come February. This is how people are here, this is the “Welcome to PG” Canada Games participants can expect.
It’s what makes “small towns” so special. Except there’s nothing small about PG anymore. Its University (UNBC) celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015. Ask anyone who’s gone there or have kids attending and they’ll tell you smaller classes on an intimate campus is the perfect university experience/education. Then there’s the city. Prince George will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2015. Its economy has always and will continue to be industry-based. You won’t find harder workers, nor more down-to-earth people than those in the communities and towns up here. Williams Lake, Quesnel, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Smithers, Houston, Terrace, Kitimat, Prince Rupert, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John just to name a few. I’ve been to them all, not to mention other little gems you’d have trouble finding on the map. But these communities, towns and reservations are so much more than dots on a map. Collectively they’re the heartbeat of our province. Fitting too. Look at a map of British Columbia, PG is smack dab in the middle.
Come February, PG will open up its heart and warmly welcome thousands of athletes, coaches and officials. That’s what people from here do. It’s the way of life here, it’s why PG is in my heart even though home is now Port Moody.
I was beyond honoured to be nominated to run with Games Torch. I couldn’t stop looking at it, couldn’t stop admiring it and I couldn’t stop running! I actually ran another leg of the torch relay! If I didn’t ask the relay support staff if I should stop, I’d still be running…hello Terrace! As the flame burned brightly, my mind was flooded with childhood memories. Every step I took, every stride that propelled me down the street, brought another trip down memory lane. To hear people honking their car horns, lining the streets and yelling encouragement like “Welcome home Jay,” reignited my deep love for PG and everyone who make up the “other half” of B.C.. Not even 24 hours after my journey with torch, I get emotional reliving the experience. That’s the hold PG has on me. It’s a warm embrace soon to be felt by all of Canada.
I’m betting once the 2015 Canada Games start and finish, PG will have also found its place into the hearts of everyone who competed and visited.
It’s the heart beat of PG.
One that will thump loudly and proudly when Prince George hosts the Games.
As it should.