St. Albert is set to be the host of the 2012 Winter Special Olympics. The organization, which organizes a winter event every four years, is in the process of preparing for its seventh event. In a written statement, St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse commented that he is thrilled the city has been chosen for the prestigious event after having hosted the 2009 Alberta Summer Games for disabled athletes.
The event, to encompass all Canadian provinces as well as the Northwest and Yukon territories, is expected to draw at least 700 participants, coaches and staff. The 2009 Summer Games included some 850 competitors and personnel. Sports in the venue will include cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, speed-skating, snowshoeing and curling.
With a bid program that began last June, St. Albert competed with Edmonton, as well as a conglomerate directed by Leduc including Devon, Wetaskiwin and Beaumont. The potential locations were evaluated by a Special Olympics review group consisting of staff as well as volunteers. Special Olympics Alberta Board Chair John Pinsent remarked that all of the communities would have been entirely suitable to host the games.
The Winter Games are a joint venture between Special Olympics Canada, Special Olympics Alberta, St. Albert and the event that qualifies athletes to be part of the World Winter Games team in 2013. This will be a nice boost to the local economy and draw attention to the St Albert area in a very positive light. It will be interesting to see how the local community reacts to such a big event taking place.