The 2015 Canada Winter Games organizing committee is having a party on Friday, Feb. 15 and the guest list is long.
They've invited at least 75,000 people -- the entire population of Prince George -- for one big block party on Quebec Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, in front of Canada Games House.
The street will be closed from 5-7 p.m. that day and activities will spill over to the adjacent parking lot to provide a venue for ice sculptures, kids activities, snowboard rail jam riding (presented by Ruckus Skis Boards & Bikes), free ski and snowboard waxing (Stride & Glide Sports, Ruins Board Shop), live entertainers, a huge video screen, cultural groups, and sport group information booths. Dinner is on the house, and Games souvenirs and gift certificates will be given away.
"The intention is to give the people of Prince George a taste of what's to come two years down the road," said Alyson Gourley-Cramer, CWG manager of communications and community relations.
"We want to highlight that the downtown will be the site of the Games Village and Athletes Village, the site of 18 days of fun, entertainment and excitement. We want to get people in Prince George excited about the Games and recognize them for being part of the Games."
Some of the city's Canada Winter Games-eligible athletes will also be at the two-years-until-the-Games community celebration. The L'heidli Tenneh First Nation will be featured and representatives of the Franais Le Cercle Des Canadiens will be handing out conversational cards to teach a few French greetings people can use to speak with Francophone visitors during the bilingual Games. A fireworks display at Connaught Hill Park overlooking downtown will end the evening.
The Games will take place over two weeks in the winter of 2015, from Feb. 15-March, with 2,350 athletes, 900 coaches/officials and thousands of visitors expected. The sporting events will be shown on national TV with an anticipated 100 hours of live coverage, with visitors bringing cell phones and tablets to share their Games experiences over social media networks. Gourley-Cramer says the mini-Olympics of 2015 will give the city a change to shed some of its negative stereotypes.
"In terms of our reputation nationally, this Games is our biggest opportunity to change people's perceptions, whether their perceptions are correct or incorrect," she said.
"When people come to Prince George and experience the hospitality that we have to offer, it will contradict every thing they hear in the media. There are industries like the university and tourism that depend on this city having a great reputation. We're just here for the next two years, but if we meet our goal of having a positive effect on our national reputation, then we've done our job."
The facility upgrades now being made at venues such as the Kin Centre arena, Otway Nordic Centre and Tabor Ski Resort provide visible signs of the Games legacy and Gourley-Cramer says the best of that is yet to come.
"We don't just see it as 18 days, these things will provide the opportunity to host so many income-generating projects after the Games," Gourley-Cramer said.
"We'll have the opportunity to host national ski events at Otway, the provincial snowboard series at Tabor, and there's been a resurgence in freestyle skiing interest (with the reformation of the Central Interior Freestyle Club, which provided Olympic moguls skiers Scott Bellavance and Chris Wong).
"People will come here and learn from experts in their field. Jeff Ihaski, the snowboard cross designer for the Olympics is coming to Tabor to design our course. We'll have a whole bunch of trained volunteers and officials when the Games are over."