ANTIGONISH, N.S. - The eyes of the nation will be gazing upon the Highland Heart of Nova Scotia this summer.
The Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games will take centre stage, from July 31 to Aug. 4, in Antigonish.
The Games will welcome more than 900 athletes – from all 12 territorial chapters – along with 600 volunteers and 3,000 fans.
Athletes will compete in nine sports – track and field, basketball, soccer, softball, bocce, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, powerlifting and swimming.
With just more than 60 days remaining until the opening ceremonies on the St. F.X. campus, the Games’ co-chairs – Marc Champoux and Carl Chisholm – provided an update on preparations for the national showcase.
“Things are falling into place – the committees have everything well under control,” Champoux said May 17, with sounds of the Eastern Highlands Special Olympics’ regional competition in the background.
Chisholm touched on the tremendous response, thus far, to the call for volunteers.
“We have approximately 700, but to make it easier on everyone – the more, the merrier,” he said.
The deadline for volunteers to register is Tuesday, June 5, which Chisholm explained is needed to provide ample time to order T-shirts and other items.
“We want to make sure that we have the right sizes for everybody and the right colours, depending on which event they are helping out with,” he said.
Like the athletes, volunteers are coming from across Canada.
“I went through the list – the day before yesterday – and there are people coming from B.C. right through to Newfoundland,” Chisholm said, noting organizers expect representation from every province.
“Obviously, it is truly a national event,” he added.
On the financial side, the co-chairs noted the response has also been strong, including corporate and government support.
“Our budget – I think, originally – we set out at $2.2 million and, right now, we are at $1.92 million,” Chisholm said.
“We are going to be hitting the local businesses – in Antigonish town and county – and every little bit will help us reach our goal. We are hoping we will get support from the local community, as well.
“There is going to be a lot of people – the town and county will be a vibrant place over those five days – so we are hoping that everyone will give a little bit back because, certainly, the restaurants, motels, shops and stores – we expect everybody to be busy during that period,” he added.
Champoux agreed the excitement is building for the celebration, including its start.
“The opening ceremonies will be something, I think, the Special Olympic Games have not seen before. I am more excited about that than I can tell you – it is going to be fantastic,” Champoux said.
These Games – hosted by Antigonish town and county and St. F.X. – will be the first time, since 1994, that Nova Scotia (Halifax) has hosted the national competition.
“We just want to thank everyone, so far, who has volunteered and come out,” Chisholm said.
“There are a bunch of people that are doing an unbelievable amount of work to make sure this comes together.”
Champoux echoed that sentiment.
“It has been a year-and-a-half in the making and there was a lot of heavy lifting, up front, and the people who have taken on the various roles made that commitment early and have kept that commitment,” he said.
For more information on the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games, including how to volunteer, visit www.so2018.com