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Orillia to host 'incredibly talented athletes' during Winter Games

'They have trained for many years to get to where they are right now,' says official of athletes who will be competing in the 55+ Ontario Winter Games next week
2020-02-27 Ontario Winter Games opening 2
The cauldron is shown being lit at the opening ceremonies for the Orillia 2020 Ontario Winter Games at Couchiching Beach Park. The 2024 Games kick off next week. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters File Photo

After more than a year of planning, the 55+ Ontario Winter Games are set to roll into Orillia early next week.  

Approximately 850 athletes from 24 Ontario districts will attend the opening ceremonies at St. Paul's Centre and the Orillia Opera House on Tuesday evening.

From Feb. 6 to 8., athletes will compete in hockey, badminton, table tennis, duplicate bridge, prediction skating, alpine skiing, and curling. Unfortunately, due to mild weather, Nordic skiing was cancelled earlier this week.

Jenna French, the chair of the Ontario Winter Games committee, says Orillia is the perfect place to host the games.

"This is the third time we've hosted the Ontario Winter Games," she said. "This is our first time bringing the 55+ demographic in, and I think this region really caters to that demographic."

More than 150 individuals from Orillia and area have committed to volunteering to make the games happen next week.

"We are very community-minded here," French said. "We have lots of volunteers who have put their hand up and have stepped up to help these games."

Orillia has one of the best sporting infrastructures in the province, French says, which makes it a great place to host the games. There will be nine Orillia sporting venues and hotel accommodations hosting the event. Horseshoe Resort, the Coldwater Curling, and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation’s Mnjikaning Arena Sports Ki (MASK) will also be hosting various competitions.

"I think we have all the pieces to pull this off and show off our community," she said. "The Ministry of Sport agrees, which is why they've selected Orillia three times."

French says the games are expected to have a $1.5-million economic impact on the Orillia area throughout the three-day event. Each athlete will receive "downtown dollars" to spend in local restaurants or shops.

"It's a really nice time to bring people to the area," she said. "There is a potential for us to be a four-season community here."

French encourages all Orillians to get out and cheer on athletes next week. A full schedule of events can be found here.

"There are some incredibly talented athletes coming," she said. "Some of these athletes take this very seriously, which can be very entertaining."

For some athletes, the Ontario Winter Games will be the pinnacle of their sporting careers.

"They have trained for many years to get to where they are right now," she said. "They have to win their district qualifiers to make these games, and if they win here next week, they can qualify for the Canadian 55+ Games."

Watching seniors compete at a high level could be inspiring for fans who attend the event next week.

"I'm certainly inspired by the coming athletes," French said. "Just because you aren't at your peak performance age doesn't mean you can't compete at a high level and follow your passions."

In a written statement, Orillia Mayor Don McIsaac says the opportunity to host the 55+ Games presents an opportunity to showcase the "dynamic and inclusive" community.

"Hosting an event of this magnitude, during a non-peak tourism season will help support our local businesses and merchants," he said. "We look forward to welcoming the Province of Ontario to Orillia once again for a successful 55+ Games.”

On Tuesday evening during the opening ceremonies from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Peter Street South, in between Colborne Street East, and Mississaga Street East, will be closed for athlete transportation drop-offs. There will also be a street closure on Peter Street North, in front of St. Paul's Centre.

To find more information about the 55+ Ontario Winter Games, click here.


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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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