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Olympic experience

Local elementary school students get a chance to try Games activities, other sports When people ask, "How did Prince George benefit from the 2010 Winter Olympics?" they can look to the UNBC campus for the answer. The $31.
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Local elementary school students get a chance to try Games activities, other sports

When people ask, "How did Prince George benefit from the 2010 Winter Olympics?" they can look to the UNBC campus for the answer.

The $31.6 million Northern Sport Centre was built with $20.5 million from the 2010 LegaciesNow program, a direct spin-off of Vancouver-Whistler's successful bid in winning the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Encompassing a multipurpose fieldhouse, gymnasium and indoor running track, the 140,000 square-foot Northern Sport Centre allows athletes to continue playing outdoor sports during the six or seven months of the year when outdoor fields are covered in snow.

This week at the NSC, 1,200 city elementary school students are finding out what it's like to play in a winter sports haven as part of the PacificSport Northern B.C. SportZ Xtravaganza program.

"This is an Olympic legacy building and a lot of the kids, especially from the inner city, haven't been up here," said PacificSport general manager Kristen Harrott. "It's a big deal for them and maybe a little overwhelming when they see how big the space is where they get to run free."

The kids are given about an hour to complete six activities, set up at stations on the fieldhouse and in the gymnasium.

The B.C. Golf Association sent up children's equipment that allows the kids to take aim at the putting green and chip balls that stick to Velcro targets. Tennis is also on the menu and kids are asked to bounce a ball vertically within a certain time limit. Using scooters, the students sit or lay on their bellies to push themselves around an obstacle course to simulate the luge.

"We also have lacrosse and it's more to get them to learn how to throw and catch," said Harrott. "Some kids might have never held a stick. They throw with their hand but they might not have ever thrown with an object.

"In honour of Megan Tandy going to the Olympics, we're doing a biathlon obstacle course and instead of the shooting we have the target toss."

Olympic field hockey player Anthony Wright of Vancouver, who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, was on hand Thursday, then Paralympian Gord Tuck, part of Canada's team in the alpine events at Salt Lake City in 2002, takes over today. The athletes will help lead the kids through the activity stations and talk about how they reached their athletic goals.

"We want to get across that sports are fun and none of the activities are competitions, it's all about participation," said Harrott. "If they have a dream, they can go for it and by trying a sport they might see on TV at the Olympics, they can say they've tried that already and they can associate better with the Olympic sports.

"Promoting active living and a healthy lifestyle is a huge piece to it."

Students from Central Fort George, Westwood, Pinewood, Vanway, Austin Road, Carney Hill, Spruceland, Edgewood, Harwin and Peden Hill schools are attending this week. The program continues through Friday. Eight hundred more students from Glenview, Van Bien, Heritage, Ron Brent, College Heights and Pineview schools will get their chance to try out the Xtravaganza, Feb. 8-12.

Students are required to bring a poster that reflects some of the values they've learned while studying the accomplishments of our Olympians and Paralympians. Those posters will be on display during the UNBC basketball game Feb. 22 at the NSC and at the Olympic send-off for Tandy, the national team biathlete (and the only 2010 Olympic athlete from Prince George) and Joe Rea, head coach of Canada's wheelchair curling team at the Paralympics in March.