Durham Region leaned into its past sport hosting experience while introducing creative legacy initiatives
By Allan Lynch
Durham Region so enjoyed hosting the 2019 Ontario Parasport Games, they took on the 2023 Games. “We thought we could build on the momentum and the legacy of the 2019 Games by hosting them again,” says Lori Talling, 2023 Games general manager and sport tourism specialist for Durham Region.
The Games are on a two-year cycle, with the most recent event, hosted by Mississauga, Ont., having been pushed from 2021 to 2022 due to COVID. Although Durham Region had less than the usual amount of time to plan the 2023 Games, which were held February 3-5, organizers were able to re-engage the many experienced, enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers that had participated in the 2019 Games and to elevate their approach to the Games.
INNOVATION AND EXPANSION
Athletes competed in the Games’ standard 11 events as well as in new demonstration sports introduced by Durham: adapted climbing, para equestrian, floor curling and power hockey.
Talling says, “If we were hosting for the first time, I’m not sure we would have taken on the introduction of the demo sports, but we thought what else can we do [to elevate what we had done in 2019]? So, we added that and did more upfront legacy initiatives as opposed to waiting to do so after the Games.”
Part of their upfront legacy was partnering with Autism Canada to distribute Sensory Support Kits to people visiting regional public libraries and holding online panel discussions to build awareness of the accessibility needs of both community members and Games attendees. They also enhanced communications by employing an ASL interpreter online and providing closed-captioning at the Games’ opening ceremonies.
Among the legacies of the 2023 Games are fitness, training and nutrition support for eight local Durham athletes via a provincial Shaping the Future of Parasport in Canada program, and introducing an Adaptive Sport and Recreation in Post-Secondary Institutions Program at Durham College and Ontario Tech University. This is a pilot to add more adaptive sport opportunities for students and staff.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND SUPPORT
In 2019, Durham introduced Be the Roar, a program they revived for the 2023 Games. Be the Roar encourages community and school groups to adopt teams, write them letters and cheer them on in-person during the competitions.
While the event and the individual competitions focus on abilities, there are practical challenges in providing fully accessible accommodations. Since the Ontario Building Code requires only a minimum of 10% of hotel guestrooms to be barrier free, organizers had to engage in extensive communications during the registration process to gather each athlete’s needs and expectations, and to communicate what could be provided by the community.
Talling says, “We know that not everyone who would like a fully accessible room is going to get one.” Organizers got creative by arranging for bath benches and shower chairs to be placed in guestrooms, as well as renting ramps for some venues and providing whatever else participants needed. “A lot of communication is required to ensure our participants have the best experience possible,” Talling adds.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 490 participants: athletes, coaches, managers, athlete assistants, officials and provincial sport organization reps
• 340 volunteers
• $872,000 estimated economic impact for the province of Ontario
• 9 competition and event venues, including the Abilities Centre in Whitby, Civic Recreation Complex in Oshawa and the Durham College and Ontario Tech University Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre
PHOTOS: OSHAWA CAMERA CLUB
Published October, 2023