Peter MacKay didn’t throw punches when he stepped into the ring Friday at Palooka’s Boxing Club, but the federal cabinet minister still incited applause from the crowd when he announced an additional $2 million in funding for the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
The cash comes from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and will help pay for everything from sports equipment to promotion and marketing of the Games, which is expected to be the biggest athletics event in Halifax’s history, while stimulating $81 million in economic activity for Nova Scotia.
“It’s an investment by our government to help in the volunteer recruitment . . . (and) in training to allow community members to build their skills,” MacKay said, adding the dough will also buy a boxing ring and gymnastics gear.
This ensures the province will “have safe, up-to-date equipment,” said MacKay, the National Defence Minister and Atlantic Gateway Minister. “Sport, simply put, is an incredibly important part of our country. It brings out the very best in people.”
MacKay was joined by provincial Health Promotion and Protection Minister Pat Dunn, Coun. Mary Wile and Games chairman Jean-Paul Deveau. All four speakers strapped on gloves, smiling for the cameras rather than sparring, inside the Gottingen Street gym.
Dunn said the Games, set for Feb. 11 to 27, 2011, “will leave us with a legacy of new and upgraded sports venues.” He pointed to the province’s history of hosting such events, including the first Canada Summer Games in 1969. “We are still using some of the sports facilities created for that.”
Palooka’s owner Mickey MacDonald said following the press conference that the Games will give young athletes here in Halifax “something to look forward to.”
“Any sport is great for the kids – it teaches them discipline, it teaches them teamwork, it teaches them focus,” he said. “It builds their character.”
Organizers say more than 2,700 athletes will compete in about 20 sports, with thousands of spectators also expected at the Games.