MLA Simon Gibson lights torch.

Torch-lighting ceremony starts countdown to Mission B.C. Winter Games

The Mission Leisure Centre's north arena was standing-room-only for Saturday's ceremonies

A capacity crowd packed into the Mission Leisure Centre today (Nov. 16) for the official torch-lighting ceremony for the B.C. Winter Games.

A loud cheer and applause erupted in the north arena as former Olympic speed skater and Mission resident Eden Donatelli-Green and Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson lit the cauldron from a torch carried in by Green.

It was standing room only in the arena, which was decorated with blue, ice-level lights, a raised dais for dignitaries, and sprinkled on the south end with small trees.

Master of ceremonies Steve Darling from Global TV said in his opening remarks that around 1,900 athletes from across British Columbia will converge on Mission Feb. 20-23.

The B.C. Games provides an opportunity for all athletes to develop skills and can help propel them into national and international competition, he said.

The ceremonies saw a procession of Games volunteers and dignitaries brought in with a piper, lead by former mayor James Atebe.

A traditional welcoming song was performed by six drummers, including Johnny Williams, a member of the Scowlitz First Nation, and a troupe of dancers from Deroche Elementary School, ranging in age from six to 11 years old.

The Mission Skating Club added its skills to the opening ceremonies, with a well-choreographed and executed show. A duo first emerged in elegant white dresses, wrapped in blue sashes and silver headdresses, followed by some of the club’s youngest skaters in complementary attire. A final group of figure skaters clad in all-white Mission City Outlaws jerseys, hockey sticks and polar bear headwear rounded out the on-ice performers.

Mission Mayor Ted Adlem next addressed the crowd, stating he could feel the growing sense of excitement in the community.

“This will be a tremendous opportunity to watch extraordinary young athletes,” he said. “The provincial spotlight will be on Mission. These Games will leave our community with a sports legacy.

“We’ll show the province the best there is to be had.”

Mission Winter Games president Brian Antonson spoke about the impacts the event will have on the district, including the attention of the province and the economic factor.

When Kimberly-Cranbrook hosted the 2008 Games, those communities realized a $1.8 million impact with half the money staying in the area, while the rest went to Victoria to help with the next Games. Antonson said they’re hoping for a similar or bigger amount here.

At the top of his list of six impacts the Games will have was that they provide an exceptional experience and great start for young athletes. Many Olympians have competed in B.C. Games.

Mission resident Ian Trimble said that he thought the opening ceremonies were well put together and interesting. Further, he now plans to put his name forward as a volunteer.

The call for volunteers was made frequently Saturday, as upwards of 2,000 people are needed.

“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” said Val Billesberger. “I loved the inclusion of the First Nations and I thought [the ceremonies] displayed Mission’s local talent.”

If you are interested in volunteering for the event, visit bcgames.org.