The 2024 Ontario 55+ Winter Games were officially kicked off last night in downtown Orillia.
During opening ceremonies held at the Orillia Opera House and St. Paul's Centre, dignitaries from around the region and across the province brought greetings to the approximately 850 athletes who will be competing in the various sports on Wednesday and Thursday.
Neil Lumsden, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, who is also a four-time Grey Cup champion and Canadian Football Hall of Famer, says the athletes of this year's Winter Games are setting a "great example" for others to get involved with sports.
"The longer we can keep people active, the less time we will have to worry about hospital lines and things like that," he said. "Keep doing what you do and let people know why you are doing it, and the successes will continue."
Ontario's Lieutenant Governor, Edith Dumont, says the games have celebrated sport and athletic achievement for a quarter century.
"Whether you are competing on skis, skates, on foot, or all of the above, you show that the only limitations on excellence in sport are the ones we place upon ourselves," she said to the athletes in attendance at the Orillia Opera House. "With a spirit like yours, our potential is limitless."
Dumont thanked athletes for showing the province the importance of activity.
"You are an inspiration to your loved ones and fellow Ontarians," she said. "Certainly, you inspire me in my own active life in hiking, open water swimming, and cross-country skiing."
Orillia Mayor Don McIsaac congratulated athletes on Tuesday evening for qualifying to play in the Winter Games.
"All of the many participants should be proud of their great accomplishments," he said. "Best of luck in the games."
McIsaac says Orillia is proud to be hosting the Winter Games again this year.
"We are thrilled once again to welcome the province to our great city of Orillia," he said. "I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the heritage downtown."
Ted Williams, Chief of Rama First Nation, thanked the 150 individuals from the local area who have committed to volunteering for the games this week.
"Nothing good happens without a great volunteer spirit," he said. "To all of the athletes out there, have a great week, enjoy yourselves, and make some friendships."
For a full Ontario Winter Games schedule of events, which are free to attend, click here.