50 years of Canada Games is being commemorated in Brandon as part of a flag relay that is spreading the spirit of the Games throughout the nation.
The relay kicked off in Quebec City in February and is travelling across Canada for 21 community celebrations, with a grand finish at the Opening Ceremony in Winnipeg this summer. Brandon, which hosted both the Canada Winter Games in 1979 and the Canada Summer Games in 1997, is proudly flying the flag at City Hall until April 9.
The community of 46,000 is the second largest city in the province and a major agricultural and service-based hub for western Manitoba. As a two-time host the impact of the Games was unmistakable on the city and region.
In 1979 one out of every nine citizens was involved in making the Games a success. This helped to bring the community closer together and make them feel empowered that they could host an event the size of the Canada Games. Games President Alex Matheson believed that the greatest portion of the Canada Games legacy came in human resources. The City of Brandon proved itself, to the world and to themselves, and with the new-found confidence in their organizational abilities, they "came of age," as Matheson said.
The city was left with a brand new Sportsplex, which includes a hockey arena with seating for 400, a 50 metre, six-lane swimming pool, racquetball courts and a speed skating oval. The Sportsplex cost $3 million. Facilities at Mount Agassiz, the alpine ski site, were given a major overhaul at a cost of almost half a million dollars. New cross country ski trails were developed in the hills south of Brandon, and a number of schools and other facilities around the city were given facelifts.
1997 marked the second time that Brandon played host to the Canada Games. With Steve Nash on board as an Honorary Chairperson the Games were a tremendous success. Even a horrific storm on the eve of the Games could not stop their commencement. The storm ravaged many of the sites that the Games occupied, but the city rallied together behind an army of volunteers and soldiers deployed to help in the clean up the Games went off without a hitch.
With a capital budget of approximately $6 million and a sport equipment budget of more than $500,000, the communities of Brandon, Minnedosa, and Ninette (Pelican Lake) greatly benefited from the legacy of the 1997 Canada Games.