by Rick Rake
Pam Alexis and Brian Antonson were already known for their amazing community spirit when they got the call.
“Can we talk? You know we have the 2014 BC Winter Games coming here . . .” asked Mission Mayor Ted Adlem of each of them a couple of years ago.
When Adlem suggested Antonson be president of the Mission Games board of directors, it was far more than the retired broadcaster and educator was expecting.
“I thought maybe he wanted me to do publicity or something, but no, the mayor’s request made me do a double take. I may have taken my kids to soccer and the like but I was never really involved in a sports fraternity, and the mayor said that’s not what they needed,” said Antonson.
Adlem told him the Games operation required leadership and organizational skills. And when Antonson garnered feedback from the president of the Vernon Games, his positive response and pride in the great team he had, sealed the deal. “So I finally said okay, I will do it.”
Alexis, a community builder, event planner and former politician, had a similar experience as vice-president of the Mission Games. “At first I asked if Brian was well . . . and looking back this has been a huge undertaking,” she laughed.
“I can honestly say for me this is probably the largest event I have ever had to oversee, and the most complicated, the most stressful of anything I have ever done,” said Alexis. “The nice thing is that Brian and I complement our skillsets and get along well.
“We’ve been putting in 50 hours plus a week for the last how many months,” she said, adding that she has always worked for the community, with an eye for what’s best for it. “This is the best and biggest event Mission will ever see. How could anyone not want to be a part of that?”
When asked to tell their best Games stress to success story, both said developing infrastructure to house the thousands of people required for the opening and closing ceremonies was a key challenge. No one wanted to leave Mission to do this, but at the same time, a warm and dry place was necessary.
“We know the people of Mission are hardy and can stand for hours in cold weather for the annual Candlelight Parade, but athletes attending these Games have to stay warm because they compete the next day,” said Antonson.
The solution? The BC Games Event Centre at Mission Raceway, a 12,000 square foot “tent” venue, was born. It will stand for about 10 days.
“We really have to thank the District of Mission for stepping up to the plate and making sure that infrastructure was in place. The Games people told us to expect an opening crowd of five to seven thousand people,” said Alexis.
Already an army of volunteers, a predicted 2,000 by Feb. 20 when the four-day Games begin, is set for training and will ensure that the community comes together in a celebration of pride.
These Games will have an estimated financial impact of $1.8 million, like the event hosted in Kimberly-Cranbrook in 2008, said Antonson. Because these 18-sport Mission Games have the widest footprint, from the Callaghan Valley at Whistler to Hemlock Valley Ski Resort to Abbotsford and Langley, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows (check www.bcgames.org to see what sports are hosted where), the logistics of recruiting volunteers and providing transportation was daunting.
Antonson and Alexis encourage everyone to watch the Games, buy Games merchandise (online or at various Mission locations), and volunteer.
“That experience and knowledge of volunteerism creates great spirit and a valuable community resource,” said Antonson.
“The Games will be a really great experience. There’s always negatives and positives. If you go into it thinking it is going to be all roses, you aren’t being realistic. We are working with great people for a great reason and the community is going to benefit hugely,” he said.
Alexis said the Games experience has precipitated an interest in creating an exhibition park in Mission to house major events. “After the Games are over and I have a holiday in Greece, I want to be part of that next project,” she said.
Antonson, who will resume work on a book and a project to build an observatory at Fraser River Heritage Park after the Games, is looking forward to some sleep.
“I’m flattered I was asked to participate,” he said.
“Now it’s up to the community to share in that joy. Let the Games begin.”