The 2019 Special Olympics BC Winter Games were awarded to Greater Vernon, starring more than 800 athletes with intellectual disabilities from all over the province and the Yukon competing with pride in eight sports.
The 2019 Provincial Games, running from Feb. 21 to 23, are the largest SOBC Winter Games to date, with a new sport joining the Special Olympics Canada winter-sport competition cycle. The sport of 5-pin bowling moved from summer to winter, joining alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, and speed skating. Participating athletes join the more than 250 volunteer coaches and mission staff.
Provincial Games are exciting and empowering experiences for Special Olympics athletes. For many, the Games offer their first opportunity to have the joy of travelling and being part of a team. The dedicated competitors aim for personal-best performances, and they will also be chasing the opportunity to advance to national and international levels of competition. Top performers in Greater Vernon qualify for spots on Team BC for the 2020 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay, Ont., which will be the qualifier for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games. More than 1,000 volunteers stage this inspiring event.
Greater Vernon is home to outstanding Special Olympics athletes, volunteers, and programs, as SOBC-Vernon runs 16 year-round sport, youth, and fitness programs, but this will be the first time that SOBC Provincial Games have been hosted here.
“In Special Olympics BC Games, the competitors showcase their talents and the true power and joy of sport, and they open hearts and minds to the abilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities, changing the way the world sees this population that is still too often forgotten or excluded. We know that Greater Vernon is home to outstanding venues and volunteers that will give our athletes the high-quality competitive experience they deserve,” said Dan Howe, President and CEO of Special Olympics BC.
For SOBC-Vernon athlete Justin Sigal, the opportunity to host the Games in his backyard is an exciting prospect.
“For me, being part of Special Olympics means inclusiveness, teamwork, friendship, travel opportunities, working hard, being committed, dedication, and having fun,” said Sigal, who medalled in cross country skiing in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games and currently also participates in alpine skiing.
Local participation from the community is critical to the success of the Games. Community leaders like Glenn Benischek, CEO of VantageOne, signed on to be the Games Chair, while former Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation’s Sue Beaudry took on the role of Fundraising Chair.
The Games also garnered the support of local graphic artist Stephanie Tambellini, who lent her talents to design the Games logo. Tambellini said the inspiration for the logo was based on the sense of place that is Greater Vernon.
“The ‘V’ shapes represent the diversity in Vernon’s people and landscape,” Tambellini said. “The shapes also convey a celebratory feeling as Greater Vernon proudly plays host to the Special Olympics BC Winter Games based on being an engaged community that values an active lifestyle. The colours chosen represent the sun, water and land that is synonymous with the Okanagan and make it a desirable place to both visit and reside.”
Tambellini said her team of graphic designers are honoured and thrilled to design the logo for Games.
“It’s important to our business that we support the community whenever possible and what a better way than to design the logo that plays host to Special Olympics BC in winter 2019. It’ll be an exciting event for our community and we are looking forward to cheering on the athletes.”
The 2019 SOBC Games Opening Ceremony kicks off the three-day event, followed by two days of competition. A Closing Ceremony open only to Games competitors wraps up the event, followed by a volunteer recognition breakfast after all the athletes have made their way home.
Whether it’s before, during, or after the Games, athletes, family, and friends can visit www.sobcgamesvernon.ca for all the latest information.
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