One of the key organizers of the 2012 NL Summer Games described the event during Saturday's dynamic closing ceremonies as “our finest hour."
With his voice cracking and bristling with emotion, Games co-chairman Joey George unabashedly declared the week-long sporting spectacle a resounding success, and gave praise to the towns of Carbonear and Harbour Grace for staging such a first-class event.
"The Games are now in the history books, but the memories will be forever," said George.
The ceremony climaxed what was an outstanding week of competition, comraderie and community pride and spirit, the likes of which many said hadn't been witnessed since 1992, the last time the Games were staged in this region.
The Games attracted some 1,300-plus athletes from throughout the province, with competitions in 10 sports at venues in Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Salmon Cove, Whiteway and Conception Bay South. A legion of volunteers fanned out across all venues, ensuring the races, games and matches ran smoothly, and that athletes were well-accommodated at special lodgings in the area.
By all accounts, everything seemed to fall into place, especially the weather. There were no major glitches and organizers appeared to beam with pride — and perhaps some exhaustion — Saturday as the Games wrapped up and athletes boarded their busses for the homeward journey.
Team Western came away with two of the three major awards, including the Premier's Cove for the most overall points, and the Sport NL Award for the most improved team.
But it was the host team that generated the loudest applause when it was announced it had won the Lieutenant-Governor's Award for the most spirited team. Athletes from the host region earned 32 medals, including nine gold, and proved to be gracious ambassadors throughout the week.
This award was voted on by various athletes, officials and coaches.
Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs said Saturday's ceremonies were bittersweet. He was given the honour of extinguishing the flame, making his way to the tower through an honour guard formed by host athletes.
Coombs and Carbonear Mayor Sam Slade also passed the Summer Games flag to the Town of Conception Bay South, which will host the event in 2016.
“It’s sad to see everyone go," Coombs told The Compass. "We made a lot of friends and it was a great week for the athletes.
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“It’s a great day for Harbour Grace and Carbonear, and hopefully we don’t have to wait for another 20.”
Coombs said he was immensely proud and impressed by athletic prowess of the athletes, and the positive energy they brought to the Games.
Praise for Games manager
Games' manager Stephanie Bourne was singled out for her efforts, with George complimenting her “superb organization skills” and suggesting her career is on an upward track.
“What you have done for us over the past year can only be described as phenomenal,” George said.
Athletes and coaches were also showering praise on organizers.
Team Avalon girls’ ball hockey coach Jeff Garland said that whenever he needed anything, or had a question, there was always a volunteer on hand to help out.
“Everything that I will take away from these Games has been positive,” he said. “I don’t have anything negative to say.”
For people like David Kennedy, who was director of venues, sports, officials and integration, such compliments were more than welcome.
He was humbled by all the kinds words, and said it was only possible because so many people came forward to help out.
"The volunteers were great," he said, adding that fan attendance was also noteworthy, since many venues were often filled with spectators.
Dozens of athletes from the Trinity-Conception region earned medals at the Games, either as a member of the host team, or Team Avalon (see fact box). Local athletes excelled in sports such as ball hockey, baseball, swimming and track and field.
It was a memorable experience, said Carbonear's Elizabeth Hicks, who won three medals at the track.
“There were a lot of people out cheering us on," she said. "I had a lot of my friends come up to me and say 'good job.'”
When asked about what he thinks people will remember 20 years from now, Coombs had trouble hiding his excitement.
“I think people are going to reflect on the Games, especially the kids, and say they were the best they were ever a part of,” he said.