For the better part of the past two weeks, Canadians have been glued to their televisions hoping to witness some Olympic glory, and for those who may have been out and about last Wednesday morning, there was a bit of Olympic glory right here in Rimbey, but on a much smaller scale.
With approximately 350 school students from elementary schools in Bentley, Bluffton, Crestomere, the Rimbey Christian School and the Rimbey Elementary School on hand; the community was host to a mini-Olympics that also included sports from the Paralympics and Inuit Games.
“It was a combination of Judy Lamb-Richardson, myself and a couple of other teachers at the school,” said organizing committee member Walt Johnson, who also moonlights as a phys. ed. teacher at the Rimbey Elementary School. “It started with a grant application. Judy really wanted to have an Inuit side to it and I’m really glad because the Olympic games themselves this year have a real First Nations flavour. Once we got the first grant application in, things started to roll.”
In all, the event was funded through three provincial and federal grants with planning beginning back in August, including inviting elementary schools from the surrounding area.
“Right from the very beginning we wanted to pull the community together,” Johnson said. “Usually, we do things separately and in isolation but with this we wanted to have it community-wide with the recreation department involved, so we got all the outlying communities and brought them all together, so that was the original position.”
Featuring students from grades 4, 5 and 6, the games included sledge hockey, a luge demonstration and several sports associated with the Inuit Games including the blanket toss and a high-kick competition. In addition, the committee had gone so far as to purchase igloo forms however the snow simply didn’t want to co-operate.
Of course, the games also included the usual Canadian preferences of hockey and curling, but also featured snowshoeing, and a biathlon event complete with Nerf guns for shooting targets.
And with the members of the Rimbey Lions Club on hand cooking hamburgers and bison jerky supplied locally, nobody went hungry. As an added bonus, the gathering was treated to some genuine maple syrup shipped directly from Quebec, which was used to flavour snow cones.
“We’ve received some great feedback over the last couple of days including people saying they heard about it and lots of kids in the hallways at school are thanking me and were really pumped up about it,” Johnson said. ”We’ve also heard from the other schools and their students were really pumped up about it too. The enthusiasm has built up over the past week. At first it was kind of disbelief that this wasn’t actually happening, but in the last few days it’s really been growing.”
This marks the third time Johnson has been involved in a miniature form of the Olympics including 1988, when he escorted several hundred students to Calgary to take in the real thing.