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Kudos to the community

Volunteers, organizers get high marks for splendid staging of Games

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The gymnastics venue at Morden’s Access Event Centre will be used for Saturday’s closing ceremony.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The gymnastics venue at Morden’s Access Event Centre will be used for Saturday’s closing ceremony. Photo Store

Other than a little old-fashioned wind chill, this year's edition of the Power Smart Manitoba Games are running like clockwork in Morden, Winkler and the R.M. of Stanley.

Phase II of the Games competitions got underway Thursday, including female hockey, mixed and Special Olympics curling, badminton, figure skating, table tennis and wrestling.

"I'd say things have been going smoothly with each day's schedule," Games co-ordinator Jordan Driedger of Winkler said on Thursday. "We had the cross-country skiing event earlier in the week pushed back to better weather late in the day, so we could avoid the harshness of weather early in the day.

"Now all our venues are inside and the roads are good enough that we're doing fine."

The Games will wrap up Saturday with the closing ceremony at 2:30 p.m. at the Access Events Centre at the Morden Arena.

"On our turnaround day, we had a few delays with buses going slower but all the athletes for Phase II got here and everyone's in a good mood," Driedger said. "Locally, the buses have not had any issues at all."

"Wednesday, we knew that would be the busiest day here. The next issue is getting all the athletes home safely. Once they're here, the food, transportation, the events, that all goes smoothly. The tricky part is getting all the kids on the right bus with the right luggage, getting them to the closing ceremony and then home.

"But we've had some practice now and we'll be putting that to good use."

Driedger said the organizing committee has been thrilled with the community response to the Games, including reaching a volunteer force of about 1,000 earlier this week.

"We're very pleased with how this turned out," he said. "We relied a lot on the communities and the people here to help us out, including the community for some financial support and the people for their time.

"It was a large undertaking with lots and lots of planning and plenty of work to pull off the Games."

Sport Manitoba CEO Jeff Hnatiuk has been in attendance this week and said Thursday execution has been a strength this year.

"I had the chance to be out there for the first couple of days and things are going very well," Hnatiuk said. "Things are very well organized, the host group has done a tremendous job.

"Between the communities of Winkler and Morden, there are some pretty good facilities out there so from that perspective, we're pleased."

Hnatiuk also said the Games are living up to their evolving reputation as a solid building block for athletic excellence in the province's athletes down the road.

"A lot of sport governing bodies are using them as a significant stepping stone to identifying athletes for provincial team programs, Canada Games programs and beyond," he said. "So we really are in a number of sports getting the best of the best kids from around Manitoba in their age groups together for these Games."

He said WHL and MJHL scouts have been watching boys' hockey, female hockey program recruiters are watching girls' games and Canada Games coaches in several sports -- looking ahead to the 2015 Games in Prince George, B.C. -- are also keeping tabs on potential players.

"We'd hope this kind of multi-games experience provides young kids with experience on the ice or playing field but the fact they're in an athletes village kind of setting, with other athletes around them, we hope that all adds to their experience and development," Hnatiuk said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2014 C5

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