RENFREW COUNTY – The 2021 Ontario Winter Games (OWG), to be hosted by Renfrew County with events at Kanata’s Wesley Clover Park, have been cancelled due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in the community.
The decision was made during a special county council meeting today (Jan. 7), amidst the growing concern of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, which surging in the province with many health districts counting record-breaking numbers.
“Our aim was to offer a safe games and at this point with the rampant and indiscriminate uptick of this latest COVID-19 variant, we couldn’t offer that assurance to the community,” Ontario Winter Games chair Peter Emon said at the meeting. “We all may know, by looking around our neighbourhoods and family networks, people who have tested positive and have had their families or workplaces self-isolate.”
He says the committee and county were worried if the games proceeded, there may be an outbreak that would force the closure of a venue.
“Our community is not diverse or compact enough where we can shut down a venue or hotel and then move to another,” Emon said.
He adds another factor is the county only being able to transport people up to 45 minutes away.
“If a venue or hotel in Arnprior were to be shut down, we could easily move to an alternate venue or hotel,” Emon said. “However, the further west in the county you go, the more difficult that becomes.”
Emon says the team is a determined group of volunteers and sponsors who came forward early on to offer their support to the OWG, adding he is confident a delay will not dampen their enthusiasm or commitment to the event.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” Emon said. “Our volunteers, sponsors and community partners all wanted our Games to highlight our community and to encourage athletes, officials and visiting parents to explore and enjoy the rich history and the many splendid settings here in the county.”
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski also supports the decision, having played a pivotal role in Renfrew County acquiring the games in 2022.
“While disappointing to so many, this is the right decision at this time,” he said. “I want to thank the games committee, all of the volunteers and all the sponsors for all of the work they have done up to now in preparation for the games. Their efforts will not be in vain as we are in a great position to host the games in the future.”
Over the next few weeks, all parties will explore the possibility of hosting the games next winter.