Cowichan 2018 president Jen Woike enters the closing ceremonies of the BC Summer Games at the Island Savings Centre on Sunday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Cowichan 2018 president reflects on successful BC Summer Games

Games marked a number of milestones in food, merchandise and opening and closing ceremonies

Last weekend’s BC Summer Games went “better than we expected,” according to Cowichan 2018 president Jen Woike.

“The vibe and everything I’m hearing in the community is that everything went off without a hitch,” she said on Monday, pretty much 24 hours after the torch was extinguished during the closing ceremonies.

The Cowichan Valley was selected to host the Games five years ago, and Woike was named president in June 2016. The team behind the games made it a mission to put the Valley on a level with, and even above, that of previous big cities that have hosted the Games.

“We tried to raise the bar and punch above our weight,” she said.

Even aspects beyond the control of Games organizers cooperated.

“The weather was perfect,” Woike noted. “It wasn’t too hot; it didn’t rain.”

Everything hinged on the volunteers, who were visible at every venue, doing every job imaginable

“I can’t say enough about the volunteers,” Woike said, noting that 150 volunteer chairs coordinated those efforts over the last 10 months.

“They were the meat and potatoes of the operation. They made everything happen.”

Woike didn’t get an opportunity to watch a lot of sports, hitting about six venues on Saturday, including some that she hadn’t seen in action prior to the Games. She was especially impressed with the beach volleyball venue at Transfer Beach, and tried to convince Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone to make it a permanent feature. She recalled how she went to the Town of Ladysmith and told them they needed a beach volleyball venue, and they made it happen.

“Those kinds of relationships and those kinds of stories are what makes the Games,” Woike said.

The opening ceremonies were a particular highlight for Woike, who noted that organizers wanted the ceremonies to be different from those at previous games. Performances by Asani, who sang the national anthem in English, French and Cree, and poet Shane Koyczan, helped make that happen.

Koyczan, in particular, had the entire crowd enraptured.

“That was pretty powerful,” Woike said. “I think we got the reaction we wanted to get from the kids.”

These were also the first opening and closing ceremonies at a BC Games that had traffic jams to get into. Opening ceremonies usually expect 1,000 spectators, but Woike believes Cowichan probably tripled that number, and closing ceremonies anticipate 50 per cent of the athletes to stay and a smattering of parents to watch, but the Island Savings Centre arena floor was filled with athletes, and parents and spectators packed the stands.

“Cowichan really came to the table,” Woike said.

Other aspects in which Cowichan blew away the benchmarks set by previous Games were in feeding the athletes, where director of food services Chad Conrad is believed to have set speed records, and a strong focus was made on using food produced either locally or elsewhere in B.C.; and in merchandise, where clothing branded with the Cowichan 2018 logo — created by the Taiji Group and marketing directors Cal Kaiser and Cam Drew — outsold the previous record by $7,000, and online sales had doubled the previous mark even before the Games started.

All money from merchandise sales goes back into the community in the form of legacy funding, Woike pointed out. It will take about another year, she added, to determine what is done with the legacy funds.

Woike is thoroughly proud of the way the entire Cowichan Valley community came together to support the Games.

“This is why Cowichan does this type of multisport event so well,” she said. “Cowichan really gets behind it. We stood up to the bigger cities — the Abbotsfords, the Langleys, even Kamloops. It shows what Cowichan is all about.”

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