The 32nd B.C. Summer Games kicked off with an opening ceremony at the CN Centre in Prince George, B.C., Thursday night, ramping up with hundreds of events over the weekend.
The competition brings together thousands of the province's best young athletes, most between the ages of 12 and 17, who have to qualify for the games at regional events.
While the games usually takes place every two years, the 2020 edition in Maple Ridge was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"After four long years apart, I am thrilled to celebrate the return of the B.C. Summer Games," said Melanie Mark (Hli Haykwhl Wii Xsgaak), minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport.
"To see everybody come together in the opening ceremony was really something that just took your breath away — we really hope that the athletes felt celebrated," said Renee McCloskey, board president of the 2022 B.C. Summer Games.
McCloskey says multi-sport events are special because they bring people together from across the province to compete in a wide range of events, while watching their peers in other disciplines.
The sports include basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, rugby, track and field, water-tow sports, equestrian sports and wrestling.
There's also golf, field and box lacrosse, swimming and a triathlon.
There are also para-sport categories across different events, including athletics, equestrian and swimming.
Hundreds of volunteers are chipping in throughout the weekend, serving food and working at the many different venues where events are being held.
"It's a huge undertaking," said McCloskey, "[I] can't say enough about the volunteers that are helping out. We've gotten some incredible support from the community as well."
McCloskey, who's also from Prince George, says she hopes this year's summer games will help local businesses bounce back from COVID-19 restrictions, as they welcome visitors from all over the province.
"These are young athletes so for most of them they have parents who have also travelled to Prince George — and friends and family members," she said.
"They're here. They need somewhere to stay, somewhere to go and eat, shop. We're definitely expecting a significant impact that way."
She adds the games are also bringing a lot of money to the northern city.
"Our operating budget to put the games on is well over a million dollars and we're spending that locally," she said.
"I think the benefit to the community is not just in civic pride — which is amazing — but a very, very real economic boost."
Competitions run until noon on Sunday, followed by a closing ceremony.