Ontario Summer Games kick off this week in London – CBC.ca

Organizers for the Ontario Summer Games are hard at work this week preparing for more than 3,000 athletes and families to descend on the city as the games kick off Thursday. 

The games are a showcase for provincial-level athletes age 12 to 18, who will compete in 21 different sports at venues across the city. 

The significance of it is huge for the community.- Cheryl Finn

“Whenever we host a multi-sport event such as this, it’s a lot of work, but the significance of it is huge for the community,” said Cheryl Finn, director of sport tourism for Tourism London. 

The total economic impact of the games is ballparked at around $6 million, according to Finn. That boost mostly comes from hotel bookings — all the group rates have been snapped up — as well as meals, shopping and gas purchased by families while in the city.

“That’s based on past figures, and seems to be in line with past economic impact statements that we have done for similar events,” she said.

The spending bump is particularly significant given that the games overlap with the August long weekend, when many people would otherwise flee the city. Around 1,000 volunteers will also be in London to lend a hand with the event proceedings, said Dave de Kelver, general manager for the Ontario Summer Games. 

“Lots of people to spend money in the city, and I think that’s great,” said de Kelver.

Given the age demographic of the athletes participating, the games are also a chance to promote London as a prospective university town, said Finn.

“With the bulk of the competitions happening on campus at Western [University], this is a great opportunity to showcase that educational institution as a viable option for student athletes,” she said.

Safety a priority for organizers

As Londoners look forward to the Ontario Summer Games, the B.C. sports community is dealing with some fallout from their own summer games. Last week, the B.C. Summer Games received around 30 complaints from girls who alleged they were touched inappropriately by boys at a dance for athletes. 

In London, de Kelver says his team is taking steps to keep young competitors safe.

All volunteers have had to get a police vulnerability screening check, he said, and athletes must be accompanied by a coach, manager or guardian at all times. And, every venue will have a security team with a focus on making sure that only “appropriate people” enter change rooms and similar facilities, said de Kelver.

“I think we’re well suited,” he said. “I feel like we’ve done all we can do.”

Forecast for 2020 ‘excellent’

Although this year’s Ontario Summer Games haven’t yet begun, de Kelver already has an eye on 2020, when London will play host again. That gives organizers a unique opportunity improve, he said, because the parameters will be largely the same.

“For us to have it back-to-back means whoever the next team is who manages the 2020 games, they’re going to have a great template to work from,” said de Kelver.

“We’re going to have a really, really good set of games this year and it’s going to be excellent in 2020 because we’ll have a chance to learn from any mistakes we made this time and improve it.”