I had blog about Customer Service, or a lack therof, already written in my head, but my disgruntled rants were forgotten as I watched 2500+ young athletes (11-15 years old) come together from around the province to celebrate athleticism and camaraderie at the 2012 Alberta Winter Games. I had the added bonus of being there as a proud mother watching Liam compete in Judo – his first time in a major competition.
North-central Alberta can be a weather challenge at the best of times. Running an outdoor Opening Ceremony in February requires a wing and a prayer, and a lot of hard work – most of which is done by big-hearted volunteers. Despite -19C temps, all 2000+ tickets sold out and the stands were packed with die-hard Albertans bundled up against the elements. We were all grateful for no snow, and no added windchill! Technical difficulties did occur, and the bone-chilling cold was felt by all, but it was the spirit in which those challenges were overcome that made the ceremonies a huge success. Yes, we would have preferred seeing the Ukranian dancers to the politicians, but watching every athlete race onto their fields with their respective zones, yelling, cheering, laughing and dancing more than made up for that. Watching local Olympic medalist Jennifer Heil, run the torch in to light the cauldron made us realize why she has a street in Spruce Grove named after her. Community spirit and pride knows no bounds. Local award-winning bands (Bird Sang Song and the Displaced Islanders) provided entertainment with frosty breath on the air, and frosty fingertips plucking guitar strings. Kids who had never met before were sharing the excitement. Our own Zone 2 had a breakaway group of gals providing impromptu cheerleading efforts in front of our stands. Despite a slight delay, the grand finale fireworks were fantastic (in all honesty – a better show than was put on by the Calgary Stampede last summer!) Shuttle buses and signage faced their own trials, but through it all, the frozen volunteers remained cheerful and helpful.
It wasn’t until I watched the actual competition that it really sunk home how much more this experience provided than ‘just athletics and competition’. I know the only pressure we put on Liam was to enjoy himself and the experience. And that he did – from photos with Edmonton Oiler cheerleaders and the games mascot, to the battles on the mats. He fought hard – won and lost. I watched his teammates cheer all their mates on. I watched laughter and tears, and I watched new friendships develop. I watched different zones swap athletes so everyone could participate in zone team events. Liam placed 5th in his weight class which was great. Claire gave me a hard time for crying when he won his first match. It was more than the win. It was the build-up of the whole atmosphere (and I can be a bit of a suck) – the incredible pride, support and positive attitude of everyone around.
Congratulations to every one of the athletes, coaches, organizers and volunteers for their positive attitudes – putting on, and making successful, such an incredible event. Believing something is possible makes it happen! And to all others, next time you want to leap in to criticize something for not going right, step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if it really matters.