The Canada Games have visited 24 Host Communities since the inaugural Games took place in the winter of 1967 in Québec. From new and improved facilities to increased volunteer capacity, and so much more, the Canada Games have a proven track record of creating meaningful legacies and strengthening the communities in which we live, work and play.
This first installment of the Canada Games Legacy Series, presented by Canadian Tire, looks back at the PEI 2023 Canada Winter Games.
A winner of the Canada Games Paul Flaherty Volunteer Appreciation Award, local volunteer Dingding Liu said his Games experience has only increased his passion for volunteering.
“This experience has equipped me with skills and perspectives that I intend to leverage in future volunteering opportunities, ensuring I give back more effectively to my community, province, and nation,” he said. “The scale of the event, combined with the camaraderie and experiences I gained, enriched me in ways I hadn't anticipated.”
Liu was a planning volunteer - meaning he contributed his time, not just during the two weeks of competition, but throughout the Host Society’s preparation for the Games. In addition to feeling better equipped for new volunteer opportunities, Liu also witnessed other legacy aspects of the Canada Games first-hand in his Games-time role with short track speed skating and figure skating.
“Events like the Canada Games bring multi-faceted benefits to PEI,” he said. “Economically, they create jobs both in the lead-up to, during, and post the event. Infrastructure-wise, improvements are seen across the province - the Eliyahu Wellness Centre being a prime example. This new facility is a boon not just for North Rustico but neighboring areas too.”
The Eliyahu Wellness Centre at Canada Games Place is an arena built in the town of North Rustico for the most recent edition of the Games, which featured short track speed skating in Week 1 and figure skating in Week 2. The new ice surface and accompanying facilities replaced the North Star Arena, which had been built in 1970.
Manager of the Sport Pathway at Speed Skating Canada, Jonathon Cavar spoke highly of this Canada Games legacy project, reinforcing its potential to support the growth of speed skating - including the development of athletes, coaches, and officials - as well as the health and wellness of the community.
“The addition of new facilities is vital to helping our sport grow as it creates an opportunity for athletes of all ages and abilities to practice our sport in a safe environment,” he said. “These facilities allow local speed skating clubs to offer additional training times and programming to their members, while also helping them welcome skaters from neighbouring communities and provinces for competitions that showcase our sport.”
More than a simple reconstruction, the new facility features Prince Edward Island’s only Olympic-sized ice surface and is now home to the Mount Academy, a sports school, in addition to being open to the community and local teams.
“It’s a beautiful facility and it was a real pleasure for us to host the inaugural competition on the ice there during PEI 2023,” Cavar said. “Hosting an event in a brand new building certainly has its challenges, but the local volunteers and sport experts worked tirelessly to ensure things ran smoothly, creating a memorable experience for athletes and spectators.”
Beyond athlete development and infrastructure projects, the Canada Games also leave a legacy that is harder to define, but was something you could feel on the streets of cities and towns across the Island as vintage winter jackets from the 1991 Games were pulled from the backs of closets and bottoms of storage bins.
A standout volunteer in 2023, Liu managed to put it into words well.
“Beyond the tangible, the Games amplified PEI's charm to the rest of Canada,” he said. “We played gracious hosts, sharing our culture, and ensuring lasting memories for all attendees. I genuinely believe some will revisit PEI, drawn by their experiences and memories from the Games, presenting a long-term boost for our community.”