The 2019 Western Canada Summer Games is the largest event ever to be hosted in the Swift Current area from Aug. 9-18, and behind it all are the many volunteers helping in sometimes surprising ways to ensure a successful event.
Lloyd Fehr has been involved early on as the co-director of information and communications technology on the volunteer board for the Summer Games.
“I thought it would be a cool event for Swift Current and wanted to see a really cool project go through from start to finish, and being involved on the board side you get front row seats,” he said.
He has been able to apply his lifelong interest in technology in this role, especially in relation to computers and radios. He is a member of the Southwest Amateur Radio Club and other members of the club have been helping him with a project to make charging bases for 200 radios that will be used during the Summer Games.
“We need a lot of radios for communication for the Games,” he said. “We're putting together some bases, because when you buy one radio they come as one. We wanted to put them in groups of five, just to make it a little bit easier.”
They cut and painted 40 pieces of wood for the charging bases. The charging trays of five two-way radios are then mounted on each base, and they are wired to have only a single plug connection to charge all five radios at the same time.
“So this was a way to make it more optimized,” he said. “As a club we figured out this design. … We tried different techniques to string them together so that we could have one outlet instead of five.”
Most of the Summer Games venues will receive 10, 15 or 20 two-way radios, and it was therefore practical to create bases that fit five charging trays.
“It's easier just to package them in that group and we can round them up,” he said.
Games volunteers will receive some instruction through a PowerPoint presentation on the appropriate use of these two-way radios.
“It just goes through the process of when you push on the mic to wait a second before talking into it,” he explained. “And you need to know what you want to say before you say it, so that you're not blithering on the radio and everybody in the world can hear it. … When you have 200 plus volunteers talking on the radio, you need to all know what the etiquette is.”
The radio club is also supporting the Summer Games by providing various equipment pieces during the event and some club members will be volunteering.
Fehr and Curtis Volk, the other co-director of information and communications technology, are making sure all the communication needs of the Summer Games are met.
“Internet has been a big challenge, because we need communication to do everything,” Fehr said. “We have software that we use to enter all the athletes scores. We want to provide it in as real time as we can, but at places like Lac Pelletier or the Landing or Hazlet or Wymark the internet is spotty at best.”
They have been partnering with Wood River Controls, an internet service provider in rural Saskatchewan, to sort out the service for events in those areas.
“All the indoor venues in the city has internet already, so that's not a problem,” he said. “Where sports mainly happen outside, we have to find a solution for that, and that was probably the most challenging thing we've had.”
He encouraged anyone who is still thinking about volunteering to get involved with the Summer Games, and to be part of the largest multi-sport event in western Canada.
“This is big,” he said. “I didn't realize the scope. I have learned so much. … I've learned different ways of dealing with people, because we're dealing with lots of different agencies and stuff. I love it.”
Sheena Gatzke, the director of volunteers for the Summer Games, said volunteers are a crucial part of the event.
“We've got so many different roles that need to be filled and largely all of the roles are volunteer roles,” she mentioned. “There are a few paid office staff, and other than that pretty much everything else is done through volunteer efforts. The Games don't happen if we don't have volunteers.”
The contribution of volunteers in the run-up to and during the event are extremely diverse. Their roles will include the set-up of venues, feeding and transporting athletes, assisting at sports events, and processing results from each event.
“The transformation of two fully functioning schools into dormitories is a huge undertaking,” she said. “We're very grateful for the support of the Chinook School Division and the teachers and staff who helped us out immensely. The cleared their classroom spaces back in June. So we could have a blank slate to work with to create dorms for the athletes.”
The athletes’ village is located at Swift Current Comprehensive High School and O.M. Irwin School. The setup of about 900 beds took place on July 29, and among the many volunteers were Swift Current firefighters and over 30 students from 13 countries who are attending a Lions International youth camp at Camp Lemieux at Lac Pelletier.
Volunteer activities already started over a year ago, for example during the creation of the Highland Coulee mountain bike course.
“We hosted a coulee cleanup in the spring of 2018 to remove garbage,” she recalled. “There was a lot of hidden treasures that had been hiding in those hills. So we had to clear all of that out. There was an old wagon wheel out there and rusted metal and things.”
More recently a group of about 30 volunteers from the Church of the Open Bible in Swift Current assembled 3,600 welcome bags that will be provided to every athlete, official and volunteer.
“They completed the task in record time and we're very thankful for that, because that's a big job,” she said.
Volunteers will assist with multiple setup changes at the Innovation Credit Union iPlex rink for different events. It will initially be used for the opening ceremonies on Aug. 9 and that same night it must be turned into a basketball court for five days, and then it must be changed into volleyball courts.
Among the more unusual roles is a volunteer position called a key runner at the athletes’ village, for which there are 12 shifts per day. The volunteers in this position will be responsible for opening and closing locked door rooms and to keep track of keys.
Sports related volunteer positions include course marshals for triathlon and at the mountain bike course. There will be volunteers driving boats and jet skis at the canoe and kayak events at Lac Pelletier. These watercrafts will be along the course for safety reasons and they will carry race officials.
Volunteers are required at every venue and all events as event services hosts, which include duties such as ticket takers, ushers, access control, and information booth attendants.
There were 1,333 formally registered volunteers on July 29. According to Gatzke there has been a good response in recent weeks and over 200 volunteers signed up, but more are still needed.
“We are still needing some assistance, predominantly with the athletes’ village,” she said. “Most of our sports are looking pretty good for the actual sport volunteers, except soccer and triathlon. We could still use some more assistance with those two sports, and the odd job at the other ones as well.”
Volunteers will still be accepted right up to the start of the Summer Games. Online registration can be done on the Summer Games website at http://2019wcsg.ca. The uniform distribution and accreditation centre is now open in the Swift Current Mall. Volunteers can go there for assistance with registration and accreditation, and to pick up their uniforms.