Though thousands of athletes will be converging in his city soon for a multi-sport competition that he is spearheading, Mel Mercredi has a rather cool demeanour these days.
Mercredi is the manager of the Saskatchewan First Nations Winter Games, to be held in Prince Albert Apro; 20 to 25. About 4,000 athletes and support staff (coaches, managers, trainers) will participate. Competitors will be on 13 tribal council teams, representing the 74 First Nations in the province.
“Things are going really well,” Mercredi said. “It’s just some fine-tuning of things we have to do now. We’ve had two years to prepare for this. We’re only months away now so we have to be pretty much ready.”
Items that still need to be taken care of, however, include finding several hundred more volunteers and securing more sponsorships.
Mercredi is not concerned about finding the 500 more volunteers required to help the games run smoothly. He’s confident these individuals will step up as the event approaches. There are already about 500 volunteers in place.
Mercredi also believes organizers will find sufficient sponsors to cover the estimated $1 million it takes to operate the games. As of mid-December, about $850,000 in sponsorships had already been committed.
“A lot of it is going to be corporate sponsorships,” he said. “We’re looking at different businesses that have been approached in the past.”
The Saskatchewan Winter Games will also be held in Prince Albert in 2014. Those games (open to all and not just First Nations athletes) will run Feb. 16 to Feb. 22.
“Ours is right after so we are competing with them for volunteers and sponsorships,” he said.
Mercredi added all other planning is well under control.
“The committee members are all prepared in their areas,” he said.
The organizers have split their duties into 13 committees, in charge of areas such as volunteers, accommodations, food services, awards, opening ceremonies and medicals.
These games are held every two years now, alternating with the Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games. Up until 2001 both summer and winter games were held each year. The province’s First Nations summer games were first held in 1974. Winter games were added in 1980.
Sports that will be contested in Prince Albert are badminton, broomball, curling, hockey and volleyball. Wrestling will be a demonstration sport.
Athletes will range in age from nine to 18.
This will mark the sixth time that Prince Albert has hosted the games. The city, which last played host in 2001, has only held winter competitions.
This is the 40th anniversary of the games and Mercredi said the occasion will be marked.
“Some of it will be a surprise,” he said of the anniversary celebrations.
Among the details Mercredi was willing to disclose was the fact organizers are developing a video of the games’ history. Also in the works is a book detailing the event since its inception.
“It’s something we want to do to recognize past games,” he said.
Mercredi added organizers of the 2014 event will also create a website, which will include plenty of historical information.
“In the past everybody has had their own new website,” he said. “We’re trying to leave a legacy (with our website) which will have the same information every year.”
Mercredi was hoping that website, www.sfnwg.ca, would be operational by the end of December.