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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The 2006 Ontario Winter Games in Simcoe

Take 22 sporting events, 3,000 young athletes, 10,000 spectators and 800 volunteers, bring them together at venues scattered across Simcoe County and what do you have?

The 2006 Ontario Winter Games.

"For some of the athletes, this is their Olympics," said Michelle Federer, manager of operations for the Town of Collingwood. "They have worked hard to make it here and they are so excited about competing at the provincial level.


"For some, this is as far as they will go in competition, and so they really think of these games as their Olympics."

Set to get underway in two weeks, the Ontario Winter Games is a celebration of amateur sport that will fill hotels and restaurants from Collingwood to Barrie from March 8 to 12. Athletes as young as nine will compete, and family members and friends will cheer from the sidelines.

Federer is managing events in the Collingwood, Stayner, Wasaga Beach and Duntroon venues.

"Hotels are booked solid, and this is really bringing all of Ontario's eyes to our region," Federer said. "It's a great opportunity for the area."

And it's an opportunity that only came to Simcoe County last spring by default when Sarnia town council decided not to host the Winter Games.

"Sarnia was originally awarded the 2006 games, and then decided that they didn't want to host them, so the Collingwood mayor stepped in at the last minute," Federer explained. "We've only had a few months instead of two years to get this huge event together."

And soon, the work will pay off with the hills, halls, pools and gyms of Collingwood and surrounding area coming alive with the sound of alpine skiing, judo, badminton, synchronized swimming, bowling, fencing, water polo, hockey, squash, figure skating, gymnastics and much more.

Opening ceremonies will be held in the Village at Blue, located at Blue Mountain Resort, on March 9, from 7 to 9 p.m.

This is the first time the Ontario Winter Games are being held as a regional collaboration. Collingwood is the leading host municipality, with the support and partnership of the Town of the Blue Mountains, Clearview Township, Wasaga Beach, Canadian Forces Base Bordon and Barrie all offering facilities and sites that could ultimately see the event be permanently scheduled in the area.

The various Ontario Games programs have been in existence for more than 35 years. The goal of the programs is to encourage young people in Ontario to live healthy, active lives through the development of positive role models, the pursuit of excellence, the building of life values like teamwork and the strengthening of our communities – all through sport.

The Ontario Games for Youth started in 1970 as a showcase for amateur sport. As the province's largest multi-sport event, the Ontario Games, for those aged 22 and under, provide the province's young athletes with development and competitive opportunities that prepare them for national and international competitions. They also give the public a chance to see some of Ontario's best amateur athletes compete at a provincial level.

The Games are held every two years in even numbered years, as a prelude to the Canada Games.

“Collingwood has a rich history of running world-class events," said Peter Dunbar, director of leisure services for Collingwood. "The expertise at the local level, in many disciplines, allows us to produce above-average athletic venues in all sports.

"The region is known for its tourism expertise and with a mid-Ontario position, allows efficient travel to our games."

The town hosted the games in 1991 with a theme of The Will to be the Best.

"From this regional partnership, we will again provide athletes the environment to be the best,” Dunbar said.

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