For the first time ever, the International Children’s Winter Games are being held in Canada.
And they are being held right here in Kelowna.
Congratulations for the vision and dedicated hard work of our organizing committee and thanks for the support and funding from municipal, provincial and federal governments and the contribution from community partners and sponsors.
For the rest of the month, we have the distinct honour of hosting hundreds of young athletes from around the world.
Ranging in age from 12 to 15, these athletes are here to compete in seven sports, including skiing, skating and hockey.
They are also in Kelowna to further the aim of the International Children’s Games to increase understanding and friendship between students from different countries and to promote the Olympic ideal.
I’m proud that Kelowna is hosting such an outstanding event.
I am proud that we can play a part in helping young people to develop sportsmanship, mutual respect and cultural understanding.
Cultural understanding, especially, is of vital importance. By helping youth to learn that people around the world are more alike than different, we are helping to reduce the likelihood of conflicts in the future.
It is more difficult to dislike people you have a connection with than someone you know nothing about.
The strong civic spirit of Kelowna residents is another reason to be proud. Close to a thousand locals have signed up to volunteer at the Games or have opened their homes to visiting athletes.
The hospitality we show during these Games will be remembered by athletes, coaches and visiting spectators for years to come. I have no doubt many of them will be making return trips in the years ahead.
Which brings me to another reason I am proud to see Kelowna hosting these games: It is an outstanding opportunity for all of us to welcome visitors from around the world and show them what a great place this is.
Those who come to participate in or to watch the International Children’s Games will find a small city with all the attractions and amenities of a large city—and a lot of other great things big cities just can’t match.
They’ll find outstanding restaurants, excellent museums and great shopping.
They’ll also find something big cities don’t offer: A wealth of amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation just minutes from downtown. And did I mention our wine?
I hope everybody in town for the International Children’s Games will have a great time in Kelowna and that the young athletes will build friendships that last for many years to come.
I’m sure they will remember Kelowna fondly—as I know we will remember them with fondness long after the closing ceremonies.
I hope, too, that this will be the first of many visits they will make to this city we are so proud to call home.
To learn more about the International Children’s Games, please visit: www.internationalchildrensgames-kelowna2011.com.
Steve Thomson is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.