Canada Summer Games bid team gearing up to show off local support

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.

Selection committee to choose 2021 host city by end of March

If chosen to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games, the City of Ottawa would spend about $5 million upgrading its aquatics centre at the Nepean Sportsplex. (Kate Porter/CBC)

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.

"I think there's a mistaken assumption that because we're a big city, things will get lost, like the Grey Cup in Toronto. People were disappointed," said Sue Holloway, an Olympic cross-country skier and paddler who is co-chairing Ottawa's bid team with the Ottawa Senators' Cyril Leeder.
Sue Holloway, who competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics in 1976, is co-chair of Ottawa's bid to host the 2021 Canada Summer Games. (Kate Porter/CBC)

"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.

"There's significant money that comes with the successful bid," she said.
The bleachers at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility would be replaced in time to hold track events if Ottawa hosts the 2021 Canada Summer Games. (Kate Porter/CBC)

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.

It could see more than $5 million in upgrades, especially for new floor tiles and a ventilation system.
Brennan Villemaire is head coach of the Ottawa National Diving Club. (Kate Porter/CBC)

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

Holloway is gearing up for the selection committee's visit in March, and said she's sure the bid team can prove Ottawa is the perfect size for a successful Canada Games.
The lights and scoreboard at Carlington Park would also be in line for upgrades if Ottawa wins the Canada Summer Games. (Kate Porter/CBC)

"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.