While the world eagerly waits for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi to start, there’s also a major sporting competition this weekend just west of Calgary.
The 2014 Alberta Winter Games take place in Banff and Canmore from Feb. 6-9 and feature more than 2,500 youth athletes, coaches and officials from across the province.
The 11- to 17-year-old athletes will compete in 19 events from alpine skiing and hockey to volleyball and wrestling.
Bob Ellard, chair of the games, says he hopes the Olympic fever will add to the excitement of the Alberta Games.
"You know there are a lot of interesting synergies, high performance athletics are being profiled certainly through the Olympics. I think our games are piggybacking on that,” he said.
Jack Menzies, 12, is competing in the cross-country ski events.
"The other athletes are very good and very skilled. I kind of want to be in the top 10 in my preferred race,” he said.
The opening ceremonies start at 7 p.m. MT Thursday on Banff Avenue when 11 year-old Georgia Hutchison will light the cauldron.
"I'm a bit nervous actually it's a five-pound torch and I run up Banff Avenue and it does have some weight to it and you have to keep it away from your face,” she said.
Admission to the ceremony is free and there will be a free shuttle bus service from Canmore to Banff.
All weekend passes are now sold out but some event day passes will be on sale on site for $10 cash, according to the Alberta Winter Games website.