The city is taking another shot at securing hosting duties for the Ontario 55+ Winter Games.
In 2019, council directed staff to submit a bid to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to host the 2023 Ontario 55+ Winter Games. That has been pushed to 2024 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also led to the cancellation of the 2021 games.
Brant County and the City of Brantford were set to host the 2021 event, but they have now turned their attention to the 2023 Ontario 55+ Summer Games, leaving the 2024 winter event without a host.
Given Orillia’s experience hosting the 2018 and 2020 Ontario Winter Games for youth, the city is well prepared to take on the responsibilities for the 2024 Ontario 55+ Winter Games, said Michael Ladouceur, interim director of business development, culture and tourism.
“Hosting the 2024 OWG would provide an opportunity for the City of Orillia to stimulate and support the economy,” he wrote in a report to council committee. “Hosting the 2024 OWG further supports Orillia’s tourism industry, generates economic activity, and enhances Orillia’s reputation as a location to host premier events.”
For those reasons, Coun. Ralph Cipolla supported the bid during Monday’s council committee meeting.
“This is really important for our community and our new facility, the rec centre,” he said, adding it will be a needed boon given the effects of the pandemic.
Coun. Tim Lauer asked about the possibility of the city hosting its own, “homegrown” Orillia Winter Games, suggesting it could be beneficial for the years when the provincial games aren’t held.
It would be possible, Ladouceur said, but he pointed out the provincial games are sanctioned and come with funding.
Mayor Steve Clarke is hoping to see the return of the Ontario 55+ Winter Games in 2024.
“If COVID keeps putting that off, I’ll never have the chance to compete,” he quipped.