What has 3,000 participants, 20 facilities, 25 sports, and an estimated $6 million in economic activity. Why, the Ontario Winter Games, of course! Supported by the Ontario Government through the Games Ontario program, this 4-day event was our favorite activity of the winter. Hosted in March, the Games bring together middle- and high-school-aged athletes representing a range of abilities, passions, and backgrounds. With over 600 volunteers, this event really brought Ontario together in a way we haven’t seen in years.
The Ontario Games Program began in 1970 in Etobicoke as a showcase for amateur sport. In the years since, it has grown to be Ontario’s largest multi-sport event—including both team and individual sports. Provincial athletes aged 12 to 18 qualify through a regional selection process, and the Games take place every two years. For many young athletes, the Ontario Winter Games is the high point of their sporting career; for others who are more professionally-minded, this serves as a stepping stone for participation in larger events—the Canada Games, Pan Am Games, and—in some cases—the Olympics.
We loved this year’s Games. We loved the excitement and joy experienced by all, as well as the crushing emotions of both winners and losers. What we loved most, however, was that this event proved the Games Ontario program to be a success. The program delivers and supports multi-sport events (there’s also a Summer Games in the works!) throughout the region. This program is part of a larger governmental agenda known as Game ON – The Ontario Government’s Sport Plan, which encourages as many people as possible to participate in sports. This, in turn, promotes good health, allows athletes to pursue excellence, and promote increased tourism and economic development. Good health, fostering community, and an event to bring the province together? We’re in—and we know tourists from around the country were, too.
The Winter Games will be back in two years, and we want to give you a head-start on making trip plans. Though Canadians from around Ontario will be most interested in this event, it serves as an excellent community-building program for every province. We even met a few Americans while attending this year! If you’ve been wanting to make a winter trip to Ontario, we recommend securing some time at the beginning of March in 2020; this is the best event for experiencing what this wonderful province is all about.