The Power of Sport

By Ryan Dutchak

The 2018 Winter Olympics, set to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month have garnered plenty of international attention. North Korea recently seems poised to participate in the games, bringing up the idea of “unity through sport.” Although not on the same international scale, the 1975 Canada Winter Games hosted by southern Alberta greatly exemplified the concept and benefits of unity through sport.

The Canada Winter Games aim to foster mutual understanding and a sense of camaraderie among athletes. Lethbridge and southern Alberta took the idea of unity through sport seriously. It began with the application to host the games in the region, which emphasized the idea of “western hospitality.” During the games, Bow Island residents epitomized “western hospitality” as they sheltered numerous athletes from a massive snowstorm.

The application proposed to have thirteen southern Alberta communities host the various sporting events. The games brought together 3000 to 4000 volunteers and various levels of government, who all sought to highlight southern Albertan generosity and promote sport.

As the games brought athletes, citizens and governments together, they also acted as a brief a release from the ongoing social tensions of the late 60s and 70s. The games used a unique and inclusive qualification system designed to entice, inspire and attract more young athletes to the world of sport. The system did this by lowering the high-performance standards, which tended to disqualify many entrants.

Local governments and the residents of southern Alberta came together by hosting the 1975 Canada Winter Games. Promoters of the games stated that sport creates a “healthy rivalry” in which “friendship and understanding are nurtured.” The Enmax Center, a product of the 1975 Games, continues to bring together Lethbridgians and Canadians. It remains a symbol of unity through sport.