One year from now, thousands of athletes will be in the region to compete for gold and glory — and to put on an entertaining show for spectators.
Officials gathered Wednesday at Rotary Place for the city's One Year Out event to start the countdown to the Orillia 2020 Ontario Winter Games.
“Boy, time flies,” Mayor Steve Clarke said Wednesday, a year after the city hosted the 2018 games.
He noted the city once received an award for its level of volunteerism and philanthropy, and said the 2018 games “exemplified that.”
“We put out the call for 500 volunteers, and 800 showed up.”
Another 800 volunteers are being sought for the 2020 games, which will take place Feb. 27 to March 1. This time, it will be easier for people to sign up to help. During Wednesday’s event, the new website — orillia2020.ca — was launched. It allows volunteers to sign up and select their own schedules based on their interests and availability. They will also receive monthly updates in the lead-up to the games.
Volunteers make the games possible, and the ripple effect is felt throughout the region.
Simcoe County Warden George Cornell noted last year’s event attracted 9,000 visitors, who collectively spent $1.1 million.
The games align with the county’s We Own Winter tourism campaign and show “outdoor recreation is alive and well in our communities,” Cornell said, adding the county is pleased to support the endeavour with $3,000 to help with promotion and advertising.
The 2020 games will see about 3,500 participants competing in 27 sports, including wushu, a form of contemporary Chinese martial arts that blends performance and martial application. Alan Tang and Wei Jen Lee, of WushuOntario, showed the crowd Wednesday what the hype was all about when they gave a demonstration of the sport.
“It’s the only sport with a combative and non-combative element,” said Tang. “It caters to different interests.”
Wushu has become popular with people of all ages, and it intrigued spectators at the 2018 games.
“It’s eye opening. Most people don’t know what to expect,” said Tang.
The crowd reaction last year was “amazing,” he said, adding, “That’s our reason for doing it at the end of the day.”