Premier Gordon Campbell lit the torch to officially start the 2010 BC Summer Games, continuing the exciting year for sport in British Columbia.
"We've seen what can happen when a community comes together to host a sporting event, and the BC Summer Games will once again give British Columbians a chance to show their spirit and community pride, and cheer on our best athletes," said Premier Campbell. "Congratulations to all the competitors and to the Township of Langley for hosting what I'm sure will be a very successful Games."
The Games take place in Langley from July 22-25 this year. More than 2,500 athletes will compete in 23 sports. The athletes will be supported by 516 coaches and 335 technical officials during the Games. Approximately 3,000 volunteers will be involved in the 2010 BC Summer Games.
"The athletes competing at the BC Summer Games have the chance to be our next Olympians and Paralympians," said Minister of Healthy Living and Sport Ida Chong. "The Province is extremely proud to be able to support our athletes while they strive for excellence in their sport and continue their dreams of reaching the podium."
With an average athlete age of 14 years, the BC Games are an important step for athletes towards provincial and national team programs and help prepare them for national and international competition. In total, 45 BC Games Alumni were named to the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams that went to Beijing in 2008, including Brent Hayden (swimming), Gary Reed (athletics), Clare Rustad (soccer), Riley McCormick (diving), Mike Saunders (baseball) and Ryder Hesjedal (cycling).
"The investment made in sport by the Province of B.C. has helped create a greater standard of coaching, which in turn produces a more positive opportunity for athlete development," said BC Games Society President and CEO, Kelly Mann. "More and more, BC Games alumni are competing in their sport at the national and international levels."
High-performance athletes understand the importance of an integrated sport system that assists in their development. Hesjedal, who is currently competing in the Tour de France, sees the BC Games as an integral part of that system.
"Becoming a professional racing cyclist for Garmin-Transitions meant having opportunities and achieving specific goals along the way," said Hesjedal. "The BC Summer Games was one of those opportunities and winning a gold medal for the zone of Vancouver Island - Central Coast was one of those goals. The BC Games were not only fun, they were an important step in my development and helped me to realize I had the potential to be a world- class cyclist."
B.C. spends $2 million annually to support the BC Summer and Winter Games - part of an estimated $47.7 million in funding this year to encourage British Columbians to be physically active and to help athletes and coaches reach the next level in sports competition.
For more information on the BC Summer Games, including results, go to http://2010bcsummergames.org/