Kelly Mann, president and CEO of the BC Games Society. (Black Press photo)

BC Games marks 40 years in 2018

Cowichan Games a milestone for BC Games Society

The Cowichan 2018 BC Summer Games ­— which run throughout the Valley this Thursday to Sunday — won’t look a lot like the first BC Summer Games did 40 years ago.

The first Games took place in Penticton in 1978, conceived by Premier Bill Bennett as a way to bring British Columbians together. Initially, the Games included athletes of all ages, but the focus gradually turned toward younger athletes, with the goal of helping them to achieve their potential on their way to higher levels of their sports.

According to Kelly Mann, the president and CEO of the BC Games Society, the move toward youth started in the late 1990s and was firmly established by the 2004 Games.

“Over 40 years, that’s probably the single largest change that has taken place,” Mann said.

The change was made gradually in order to help provincial sports organizations make the transition.

“We gave sports the opportunity to get to that place,” Mann explained.

The youth format was a big change for some sports, but they learned to embrace it.

“Golf had players in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” Mann related. “They went away and came back, and now it’s 12- to 16-year-olds. There are some ridiculously good golfers. That’s one of the sports that really stepped up and asked, ‘How can we invest in developing youth?’”

Mann has been with the BC Games Society for the last 26 years, and in his current position for 19 years, and he doesn’t want to take the credit for the switch to the youth-focused event.

“That’s not because of me; it’s because of the society,” he said. “I was simply lucky enough to be here.”

Among the benefits of concentrating on young people, Mann explained, is that the age limits make it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the vast majority of the participants, which is reflected in the athletes’ excitement and enthusiasm, and in their discipline and focus.

“These kids understand the importance of the Games,” Mann said. “They train harder and pay attention to what their coaches are offering.”

Sports tourism didn’t suffer as a result of the switch, either, with no drop-off in interest and attendance.

“The adults who competed were replaced by adults who came to watch their children and grandchildren,” said Mann, adding that he is now seeing a second generation of athletes whose parents competed in the BC Games when they were young.

Participants in the BC Games often go on to the next tiers of their sports, competing at the national and international levels. The percentage of athletes who have gone on from the BC Games to represent the province at the Canada Games is in the high 50s, Mann said.

Swimmer Brent Hayden, who competed at the 1998 BC Games in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, then went on to win medals for Canada in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships, will be speaking to the athletes at the 2018 Opening Ceremonies on Thursday. Other noteworthy alumni of the BC Summer Games that come to Mann’s mind include wrestler Carol Huynh, who won gold for Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics and bronze at the 2012 Olympics; cyclist Ryder Hesjedal, who won the Giro d’Italia in 2012 and finished fifth in the Tour de France in 2010; and Brett Lawrie, who played in Major League Baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s.

The BC Games Society is proud of the opportunities it has offered to all athletes, even those who didn’t pursue their sports at higher levels.

The Cowichan 2018 Games will mark Mann’s last as president and CEO of the society, but he is confident about the direction the organization is heading in.

A key aspect of that is the Powering Potential Fund, which helps fund infrastructure that will be used during the BC Games and afterward, in their communities and around the province.

SEE MORE: Summer Games equipment funding will have lasting impact

A permanent dock at Quamichan Lake, starting blocks for the competition pool at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, a new mat for the Cowichan Valley Wrestling Club, and triathlon transition racks that will be moved around the province, all purchased from the Powering Potential Fund, will have a lasting impact on sports in the Cowichan Valley and around B.C., something Mann is proud of.

“We can go home at the end of the day when it’s all over with,” he said. “But what is our legacy?”

BC Games

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quadra Island adds voice to provincial old growth protest

Demonstrators and phoning campaign put pressure on provincial government

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Campbell River RCMP describe violent incident as ‘disturbing event’

Skatepark incident described by RCMP as ‘violence for violence[’s] sake’

North Island area timber supply under review

Review will inform annual cut for the next ten years

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read