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Attendees take in the sights and sounds at Fort William Historical Park for the 2024 Ontario Winter Games opening ceremonies, while the Games' flame burns (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

Opening ceremonies a blend of old and new

By Adam Riley Feb 17, 2024 | 2:28 PM

Organizers for the 2024 Ontario Winter Games have a little bit of the weight they’ve been feeling for the past few years lifted a little bit off their shoulders following a successful opening ceremonies at Fort William Historical Park Friday night.

Special events chair Karen Kadolph who coordinated and put the ceremonies together with the rest of the team explains the athletes were the reason the park was chosen as the ideal place for the kickoff.

“When they’re doing their sports they’re going to go around they’re going to see the different venues that we have, so we wanted to show them something that was very different, something that was very Thunder Bay, and Fort William Historical Park was the site for that type of venue.”

As the athletes, who have come from across Ontario, entered the main square of Fort William they were cheered on by supporters, event sponsors and organizers, but as the light from the sun dimmed, a lone flame on a torch entered, carried by an athlete from the past.

In 1974, Zygmunt Grzelewski, won not only a gold medal in weightlifting, but was also asked then to light the Ontario Winter Games torch that year, five decades later he was asked to do it once again.

“I won the actual first gold medal of the games back then, because I was a flyweight, which is the lightest weight in weightlifting and it just happened that way. The next thing you know they were asking me to light the torch and of course I said yes. I was elated to be able to do that.”

Zygmunt Grzelewski lit the flame for the Ontario Winter Games in Thunder Bay in 1974 and 50 years later returned to do it again (Adam Riley / Acadia Broadcasting)

Grzelewski adds being called upon and doing it once again “unbelievable”, and the opportunity brought back many good memories.

He says sports are extremely important due to the level of discipline and having the chance to not only participate in an event of such scale as the Games, with the potential to bring home a medal is a great thing to have in your life.

As all the magic and hard work came to life before his eyes Organizing Committee Chair Barry Streib found himself at times a little teary eyed.

“It’s an emotional moment for the team, because the team put so much work into getting to this point and now its here.”

The Ontario Winter Games will continue throughout the weekend with a six of the 13 events, wrestling, diving, ringette, futsal, cross-country skiing and badminton.

Next weekend the remaining seven, fencing, archery, hockey, five-pin bowling, artistic swimming, curling and biathalon will take place.