So, that’s what they mean by “political will”.
First, officials in Campbell River and the Comox Valley won’t bid to host the 55+ BC Games. Then they will.
The serve-and-volley last week, both at Campbell River Council table and between the communities’ officials, was worthy of a 55+ games badminton or tennis final.
Earlier this year, Campbell River was extended an invitation to bid on hosting the annual summer sports competition, formerly known as the BC Seniors Games, in either 2017, 2018 or 2019. The city lacks the facilities to house all the sports, so rec and culture manager Lynn Wark contacted her counterpart at Comox Valley Regional District about the chance the two regions could jointly host the games, as they did in 2010.
Based on input from recreation managers in Campbell River, Courtenay, Cumberland and the CVRD in a meeting last year, the consensus was that bidding on another games would be too challenging. Therefore, staff recommended against submitting a bid.
But a funny thing happened on the way to a rubber stamp.
Councillor Charlie Cornfield rallied his fellows around the table to leapfrog the staff recommendation and agree to put the issue before the communities’ respective mayors.
Or, as Cornfield put it in last week’s council meeting, “… maybe it’s time to get political and see if there’s a political will to make it happen.”
Apparently, there is. Two days later, Mayor Andy Adams, freshly returned from a jaunt to Campbell River’s sister city in Ishikari, Japan, met with Courtenay’s mayor to pitch the very same project.
The development has been interesting to follow, if only because none of it was brought about by public pressure, complaints or lobbying.
There is, of course, the matter of the economic boost the games could potentially provide the host community — or, in this case, communities. The last games for which the Senior Games Society has an economic analysis, the 2009 event in Richmond, showed a $2.1 million boost to the local economy as 3,900 athletes — along with assorted coaches, officials and family members — attended.
The 2010 Campbell River/Comox games drew 3,300-plus competitors, so presumably that economic infusion was in the $1.5 to $2 million range, spread between the communities. The host communities also get an $85,000 grant from the B.C. Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to help offset the cost of hosting.
Hosting games of this magnitude takes more than cash, of course. With 28 events spread out among dozens of venues, volunteers are needed in force. And while the last week’s political machinations have a particularly top-down feel, it will fall to the rank-and-file to handle the logistics of those thousands of visiting competitors.
That was part of the concern of the recreational staffers in the region when they recommended against attempting another hosting effort so soon after the 2010 games. But a realistic look at the calendar shows there is time to plan, prepare and recruit. Nobody has to slap it together by this summer — the bids are for the years 2017 through 2019, meaning as many as nine years between games for the region. If Campbell River and Courtenay together cannot rally residents to the cause in that time frame, then, indeed, they should not be hosting a major provincial competition. But precedent shows the communities are fully capable of coming together to make for a memorable and well-run 55+ BC Games sometime in the next two to four years.
After all, where there’s a will, there’s a way.