Canada Summer Games bid team gearing up to show off local support
Selection committee to choose 2021 host city by end of March
The team behind Ottawa's bid to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games is already gearing up to clear its first real hurdle: proving that if this city is selected, residents will turn out to support the amateur sporting event.
If it's chosen, Ottawa would become the largest city to ever host a Canada Games.
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"But Ottawa is not really, in my mind, a big city. It's a small town in a big city."
After Winnipeg's event this summer, it will be Ontario's turn to host in 2021. Ottawa is up against bids from the Waterloo and Niagara regions, as well as Sudbury.
The Ottawa 2021 team will hold an event outside Ottawa City Hall at noon Thursday to launch a community drive to get 5,000 supporters registered by the time the Canada Games selection committee visits in early March.
"I'm completely confident that people would come," said Holloway, noting the turnout for curling and soccer competitions Ottawa has hosted in the past.
Leeder agreed, telling CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Thursday that he's "absolutely not worried" about attendance.
"We're absolutely confident and convinced that Ottawans would turn out for this as volunteers ... to participate and watch events and show up for them," he said.
"We've already have over 1,000 people sign up on our website saying they are interested in the games, and we really haven't done anything. It was really a soft launch, there wasn't any promotion behind that at all."
$14M in upgrades for local facilities
Holloway thinks residents should get behind the Canada Games for reasons that go beyond community spirit.
The overall budget to host the event in 2021 would be $43.1 million, of which the City of Ottawa would be responsible for $10.5 million. The federal and provincial governments would each contribute another $10.5 million and the organizing committee would raise the final $12 million through ticket sales and sponsorship.
Of that, $8 million would be spent on capital upgrades to city-owned facilities and another $6 million shared by venues not owned by the city.
"There's no white elephant in this bid. We're not building something just for the games that won't have some legacy use. These were all upgrades that were necessary," said Holloway.
And because Ottawa would be simply renovating venues instead of building them from scratch, the team behind the games would be able to put more energy into promotion and ticket sales, Leeder said.
Teen athletes could have their moment
The biggest winner among the municipal facilities would be the pool at the Nepean Sportsplex, which would host diving and swimming events.
Brennan Villemaire, head coach of the Ottawa National Diving Club, has spent 16 years diving and coaching at the facility, and considers the pool a second home.
Competing at the Canada Games on Prince Edward Island in 2009 was the highlight of his diving career, Villemaire said, and is a path many young athletes take on their way to the Olympics.
"Bringing a prestigious event like this into Ottawa not only increases the exposure for all the sports, it just allows for more participation for future athletes down the road," said Villemaire.
Villemaire has been busy spreading the word about Ottawa's 2021 bid among divers and on social media. There are three or four young divers the club is grooming to hopefully take a place on Team Ontario four years from now.
Villemaire said he's also excited about the potential investment in city facilities.
"We do lose a lot of athletes to the States and to other provinces because they can offer better venues. But if Ottawa can upgrade its facilities, it might be one more reason for athletes to stay in our province or in our city."
Preparing for selection committee's visit
"You do your best and do your research and ensure that you've gotten inside the heads of the selection committee and provided the answers they need to see you as the best candidate," said Holloway.
"But, like in sport, you just have to do the best job you can, and let the chips fall where they may."
The Canada Games will decide on the 2021 host city by the end of March.
To see the venues in Google Maps, click here.