British Columbia

Prince George celebrates 5 years since hosting Canada Winter Games

"It was kind of like a mini-Olympics," recalled Kevin Pettersen, then-president of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club.

The Canada Games are one of the largest multi-sport events in the country

Prince George hosted the 2015 Canada Winter Games from February 13th to March 1st. (Canada Games)

This week, five years ago, 2,400 athletes and coaches, 4,800 volunteers and about 8,000 spectators came together for the Canada Winter Games in Prince George. 

At the time, it was the largest sporting event ever held in the northern B.C. city, and the first Canada Games to have an official First Nations host, the Lheidli T'enneh.

The Canada Games are one of the largest national multi-sport events held in the country, alternating every two years between Summer and Winter. 

The 2015 Canada Games saw Quebec top the rankings with 141 medals, Ontario with 110, and host B.C. with 88 medals, including 22 gold.

Quinten Fast of British Columbia is seen during the men's snowboard slopestyle on Tabor Mountain at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. on Feb. 27, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

"It was a whirlwind," said Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall. 

He had come to office a few months earlier in November 2014 and he said watching the community come together with such enthusiasm was a delight.

"We're a much, much better city for having the games," he said. "From my perspective there was no downside for having the games."

Listen to Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall on his memories of the games:

It was five years that Prince George and the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation hosted the Canada Winter Games, bringing hundreds of people to the city. Mayor Lyn Hall joins guest host Wil Fundal to reflect on their legacy and how they helped the community grow. 7:14

An Indigenous first

Volunteers at the Prince George Native Friendship Center made 1,350 moosehide pouches to hold medals for the Canada Winter Games. Pictured, Darcy Dennis with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The 2015 Games in Prince George marked the first time there was a host First Nation, Lheidli T'enneh. Joshua Seymour, a councillor with Lheidli T'enneh, said the First Nation was involved right from the beginning, during the creation of the bid video. 

"We kind of thought, 'How can we make these games different from the other games?" he said. "With Lheidli T'enneh's support, we became the official host First Nation."

The nation was involved in many aspects of the event. For example, Jennifer Anais Pighin, a local teacher, artist, and Lheidli T'enneh band councillor, designed the medals. 

But the moment that sticks out to Seymour is hearing the national anthem sung in Dakelh, the language of  Lheidli T'enneh.

"I can't actually listen to that song without tearing up," Seymour said.

"As a child myself growing up, people never really knew who I was ... So having our language and having our culture tied to a national moment like that ... to hear my language, singing my national anthem. I'd never felt so connected until that moment. People knew who Lheidli T'enneh was. I knew that I'd never have to explain it again."

Listen to Lheidli T'enneh's Joshua Seymour:

It's been five years since Lheidli T'enneh became the first Host First Nation of a Canada Winter Games, in partnership with the City of Prince George. Josh Seymour was a Lheidli T'enneh councillor and Games organizer, and he speaks about the legacy of the games, and why he still tears up hearing the national anthem sung in Dakelh. 8:19

'Like a mini-Olympics'

Volunteers wearing their hallmark green jackets watch over a biathlete at the Prince George Canada Games in 2015. "I still see the green jackets today," reminisced Mayor Lyn Hall, five years later. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The Canada Winter Games have also left an important legacy on the city, according to Kevin Pettersen, who was the president of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club during the Canada Winter Games in 2015.

"It was really exciting," he said. "We've held national events before but this was quite different because the whole city was into it. It was kind of like a mini-Olympics."

Athletes from every province and territory in Canada are seen during the closing ceremonies at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George on March 1, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The club, with ski trails winding through the Prince George forest, hosted the biathlon and cross-country ski events to great fanfare.

 It propelled the venue to the international stage, eventually hosting the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in 2019.

"I think it really instilled that community pride and everyone really wanted to show off what we had here," he said.

Listen to Kevin Pettersen of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club: 

Kevin Pettersen of the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club talks about the impact hosting the 2015 Canada Winter Games had on his club and the community of Prince George. 8:58

With files from Daybreak North

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