While there is still planning going on for the 2022 Ontario Winter Games, Cindy Burwell, Manager for Renfrew County’s Ontario Winter Games says some events will be coming to Barry’s Bay.
Burwell has confirmed that the kickboxing event will be held in town, but as of now, nothing else is set in stone. The majority of the game events will be held in the Pembroke-Petawawa area, but Burwell is planning to hold events in as many communities as possible across the County. However, the pandemic has complicated things, with volunteers and provincial sport organizations unable to do site visits to potential venues. Burwell says each organization has their own specific rules and regulations, for things like venue size and spectator space. Across 27 different events, this will take time, but they hope to have some details finalized in the next few months.
However, even if only one event is held in Barry’s Bay, it will still be a boost for local tourism. Over 3500 athletes will have priority in getting hotel spots across Renfrew County as close to venues as possible. The Games will have accommodations listed on their website for parents and spectators to chose from. In addition, the Games will be looking for sponsorship during this time. Burwell says that they are contacting everyone they can, and the Games will provide a great economic boost to Madawaska Valley and beyond.
Burwell describes running the games as a massive challenge, as logistics, accommodation and transportation for multiple towns over a vast county do not make this a straightforward task. In addition, Renfrew County lacks certain facilities, which will require some events, like the speed skating event, to be moved to Ottawa. However many venues from Calabogie, Arnprior, Renfrew, Pembroke, Petawawa and others will be used, from arenas all the way down to high school gyms. Burwell hopes to use Garrison Petawawa as well, but that is still in talks. Because of the size of the County and the logistics challenge, the games will be stretched over two weeks, with two opening ceremonies to accommodate every athlete. Burwell is confident that if everything goes as planned, they will be able to open the games in February and March 2022. However, because of the current uncertainty around large events, they haven’t made any concrete moves on spending money.
Burwell’s background is in sports sponsorship and putting on large, international events. She grew up in Renfrew and had her education at the Renfrew Collegiate Institute and McGuil Univesity. After a stint managing sports promotions in Toronto, she relocated with her husband to Geneva, Switzerland. There she ran an international hockey tournament in the city for 5 years running, which was praised by the city’s government. When the pandemic hit, she was organizing celebrations for the city airport’s 100th anniversary.