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Canada Games officials and ‘army’ of 5,000 volunteers face final preparations

Officials and thousands of volunteers are in the home-stretch stage of preparations for Prince Edward Island to host the 2023 Canada Winter Games.

The two-week long Games will take place Feb. 18 to March 5 and officials are expecting about 3,600 athletes and coaches.

With some of them starting to arrive at Charlottetown’s airport on Friday, finishing touches are still being put on some venues and team accommodations.

Without “that army of 5,000 volunteers, we couldn’t do it,” said Wayne Carew, chair of the 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society.

“Volunteers are still signing up and doing their venue training tours. And we have a lot of planning volunteers who are involved in the execution. So, they are working flat out, as is staff,” he said.

Man with grey hair wears black puffer jacket with 2023 Canada Games logo.
‘There are lots of things that need to be done and a lot of things that really can’t be done until the last minute too,’ says Wayne Carew, chair of the 2023 Canada Games Host Society. (Anthony Davis/CBC)

“There are lots of things that need to be done — and a lot of things that really can’t be done until the last minute too.”

Rooms at a brand-new residence building at the University of Prince Edward Island were being fitted with fresh sheets and furniture on Monday. It will form a key part of the athletes’ village for this event.

In North Rustico, signs were being put up and inside ice was being installed around the rink at the Eliyahu Wellness Centre — a legacy project for the Games, replacing the North Star Arena.

Man with short dark hair wearing black puffer jacket, smiling.
Willie MacGuigan, general manager of the Eliyahu Wellness Centre at Canada Games Place, is happy that after some delays, the centre is ready for the Games. (Anthony Davis/CBC)

The arena is set to host both figure skating and short-track speed skating events.

The project faced several setbacks, including construction and supply issues related to bad weather and the COVID-19 pandemic. But those who manage the building believe everything will be ready to go for the Games, with only a little cosmetic work left to be done.

“It feels great. I mean, to be to this point where we’re holding the Games in a week,” said the centre’s general manager Willie MacGuigan. 

“The last three months have been stressful. I think for everyone involved and for everyone that has put in a lot of time and effort to see this come through and to have the Canada Games and to have our minor sport and community members in it — it means a lot to a lot of people.”

The opening ceremonies for the 2023 Canada Games will take place Saturday at 7:30 p.m. AT at Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown.

Apart from the competitors, thousands of spectators are expected at the games, many more than officials had banked on.

“We actually had to suspend our Week 1 pass sales earlier this week because they were going better than expected, ahead of projections,” said Jonathan Ross, the Canada Games’ vice-president of sponsorship and revenue generation.

“We want to ensure that … a family that comes and visits the Games aren’t disappointed and are able to come and support their friends and family.”

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