ANTIGONISH, N.S. - All good things must come to an end.
That phrase could have been a theme Saturday evening for the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games closing ceremony at the St. F.X. Keating Centre in Antigonish.
That sentiment didn’t make it any easier for everyone to say ‘goodbye,’ as the five-day celebration of athletics, friendship and fun, which brought together people from coast-to-coast-to-coast, wrapped up.
Nevertheless, that sadness – of sorts – didn’t dampen the celebration, which included plenty of singing, dancing and cheers.
“You have gone above and beyond,” Sharon Bollenbach, CEO of Special Olympics Canada, said in thanking Antigonish and Nova Scotia for hosting an “outstanding Games.”
She credited the Antigonish organizing committee for achieving “incredible success” through its hard work and dedication.
“You have welcomed all of us with open arms,” Bollenbach added.
She also praised the “unbelievable spirit of volunteerism” provided during the Games.
“You continue to change hearts and minds of people around the world,” Bollenbach said of the Special Olympics movement.
Before leaving the podium, she made one request of athletes, coaches and their teams, leading them in thunderous "thank you, Antigonish," which was followed by a standing ovation.
Antigonish organizing committee co-chairs – Marc Champoux and Carl Chisholm – reflected on what they and everyone in the community learned from the athletes; fair play, determination, courage, strength, confidence, encouragement and kindness - just to name a few.
“You will be with us forever,” Chisholm said, adding “you have taught us the true meaning of what being an athlete is.”
They wished the Special Olympics athletes “continued success as your journey continues.”
With the announcement it was time to lower the Special Olympics Canada flag, there were a few moans, but they soon turned to cheers as Chisholm and Champoux handed it over to representatives of Team Ontario.
Thunder Bay will host the next gathering of athletes in national competition for the Special Olympics Canada 2020 Winter Games.
After St. F.X. Vice President and Provost Kevin Wamsley, Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher and Municipality of the County of Antigonish Deputy Warden Hughie Stewart officially closed the Special Olympics Canada 2018 Summer Games, the packed house received a final taste of entertainment befitting the ‘Highland Heart of Nova Scotia.’
With the flame also extinguished in the Special Olympics Cauldron, which was perched atop a nine-foot high commemorative cairn created and constructed in Antigonish during the Games in Special Olympics 50th Square on the St. F.X. campus, the night ended with an athletes’ only dance.
The Games, which took place for only the second time in Nova Scotia, included more than 1,000 athletes from all 12 territorial chapters – along with more than 600 volunteers and more than 3,000 fans, with competition taking place and medals awarded in nine sports; athletics, basketball, soccer, softball, bocce, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, powerlifting and swimming.