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Halifax ready to showcase Canada Winter Games on TSN2

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The Canadian Press
2/11/2011 3:18:08 PM
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HALIFAX -- It seemed only fitting that in the hours before the official opening of the Canada Winter Games in Halifax, a snow squall enveloped the downtown in a swirling curtain of big, puffy snowflakes.

Throughout the city, young athletes in brightly coloured provincial uniforms could be seen in small groups, heading to hotels and checking out the local sporting venues.

In all, 2,700 competitors from 800 communities will take part in about 20 sporting events, including freestyle and alpine skiing at two hills north of Halifax.

"Thousands of people are coming from across the country, and I just know that they're going to have the time of their lives here in Nova Scotia," Premier Darrell Dexter said in a statement. "The enthusiasm of these young athletes is infectious."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was scheduled to take part in the opening ceremonies at the Halifax Metro Centre, featuring more than 250 performers celebrating Nova Scotia's special relationship with the sea.

A number of acts from the province will take to the stage, including The Trews, Grand Derangement, Jimmy Rankin and the Stanfields.

The two-hour ceremony will also feature a parade of athletes and the lighting of the Games cauldron.

The beginning of the two-week event marks the first time Halifax has hosted the Games since the inaugural summer event in 1969.

"Some of these aspiring athletes are going on to bigger and better things ... like the Olympics," said Chris Morrissey, CEO of the Games. "You can't beat the experience of coming to an event like this."

At the Vancouver Olympics last year, 63 per cent of the Canadian athletes who won medals had competed at previous Canada Games.

In the days ahead, Alberta's men's hockey team will be vying for its sixth straight Canada Games medal. The team took home the bronze in 2007 while Ontario nabbed gold.

In women's hockey, Ontario is considered the team to beat as it looks for its fifth consecutive gold medal.

Meanwhile, Morrissey stickhandled some tough questions Friday following the resignation of the event's co-chairman for security.

Dave Worrell, a Halifax police officer, has said he resigned because the Games has only 20 per cent of the security staff needed, and there is a shortage of cellphones, cars and other equipment.

But Morrissey said the number of security personnel Worrell asked for "was significantly more than previous Canada Games."

"We did not scale back and there were no budget cutbacks."

Morrissey said organizers were comfortable with the level of security.

"Threat risks here are extremely low," the CEO said. "It's not like the Olympics where you have international media and international athletes or any countries competing where you would have some very specific risks."

Morrissey says about 1,000 of the 5,000 volunteers at the Games are responsible for protecting people and property, and a private firm has been paid $200,000 to provide overnight security.

Rink at Canada Winter Games (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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