Hosting Alberta Winter Games a sign Fort McMurray is back, mayor says

Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott says hosting the 2018 Alberta Winter Games is a sign that Fort McMurray is back after the 2016 wildfire.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the 2018 Alberta Winter Games in Fort McMurray

Zone 7, the geographic group Fort McMurray is in for the games, parades into the opening ceremonies. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott says hosting the 2018 Alberta Winter Games is a sign that Fort McMurray is back after the 2016 wildfire.

Despite the devastation of the wildfire, the municipality didn't withdraw as the games host city.

Athletes attend the opening ceremony of the 2018 Alberta Winter Games in Fort McMurray. (David Thurton/ CBC)

"We've been back for a long time," Scott said. "But I think, in a lot of people's minds, this is moving us beyond all the challenges that we face. So I am really proud of that."

The city kicked off the event with the lighting of a cauldron at the opening ceremony Friday.

Athletes paraded according to their regional zones in a -21 C weather and then cheered on the performances and speeches.

Michelle Toner, general manager for Alberta Winter Games, admitted there was some doubt about whether the region could host the event after the wildfire.

"There was consultation once we did come back to the community, as to whether we were able to go forward," Toner said. "Luckily, none of the buildings required for the games were damaged."

The games are expected to be a mini weekend boom for the city as more than 5,000 visitors descend on the region.

Organizers said they have sold about 2,100 weekend passes.

Athletes between the ages of 11 and 17 will compete in a range of sports, including skiing, hockey, badminton and wrestling.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca

About the Author

David Thurton

David Thurton is CBC's mobile journalist in Fort McMurray. He's worked for CBC in the Maritimes & in Canada's Arctic. Email: david.thurton@cbc.ca