Excitement is heating up for the thousands of volunteers, participants and sports fans eagerly awaiting the launch of the Ontario Summer Games (OSG) next week.
The opening ceremony of the bi-annual Olympic-style competition is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16 at Varsity Stadium.
Organizing committee chair Rahul Bhardwaj and his team began preparations for the Toronto event only a few months after the completion of the 2010 games in Sudbury. The challenge is to take all that planning and make it a reality, he said.
“It is truly remarkable what we have built with these games,” he said. “The organizing committee has been working for 18 months and now thousands of volunteers are also operating to help the games. So many people are civically engaged and want to be the best host to their province. They are doing an enormous amount of work right now.”
Preparations are ongoing with the bulk of the 2,500 athletes are arriving on the day of the opening ceremony. In addition to preparing 13 athlete villages and 20 sporting venues, organizers are busy ensuring proper food preparation, making transportation arrangements and managing the opening ceremony.
The athletes have a lot to do as well, focusing their minds and making final preparations for what is, for some, the highest level of competition of their lives.
Every athlete approaches the competition differently, but Lana Perry knows the feeling. A former archery competitor, coach and current administrator with the OSG, Perry understands even the most stoic archers can get high strung, but have to focus on pre-games training.
“Some younger athletes will actually taper their training off so they don’t hurt their muscles and some will amp it up to get more endurance. A lot of what we do becomes mental training. It really differs depending on athletes,” said Perry.
Athletes also need to fine tune their equipment in preparation for the event. Even though everyone is coming from Ontario, the humidity and weather in Toronto can alter the functionality of equipment, Perry said. Restringing bows, tweaking rifle sights and double-checking bicycle tires can be the difference between standing on the podium and watching from the stands.
There is a counterbalance to the stress of the OSG. Perry knows the teens involved aren’t here just to compete; they are also excited about the rich social experience of meeting like-minded athletes from across the province.
“A lot of the time they come away having met some very great people,” said Perry. “Even just wandering around in the dormitory, they are wearing different uniforms and they get to know each other. Being teenagers, they are very social anyway.”
Visit www.ontariosummergames.ca for a full schedule of events.