With several professional sports leagues in the heart of their respective playoff runs, Ottawa is gearing up for its own year of tournaments and championships as local and national teams prepare to bring their competitions to the capital.
While COVID-19 halted team sports throughout the city earlier this year, Ottawa Tourism and local sporting associations continued their efforts to pitch the capital as a top destination for sports events in 2021 and beyond.
The city is no stranger to hosting large-scale events, with 21 national championships and 16 international events taking place in Ottawa in 2019.
In the coming years, the city will see the return of the Canadian Sprint Canoe Kayak National Championships and the CP Women’s Open to Ottawa, while also welcoming the World Men’s Curling Championship and the Masters Indigenous Games.
“Ottawa has always been a sports city, right from the community level, and it’s something that we do very well,” says Robert Kawamoto, senior strategic advisor for major events and sports at Ottawa Tourism.
“The city has a great reputation all across the country and we are only looking to grow that success.”
A sports destination city
With year-round access to transportation, modern facilities, hotels, restaurants and leisure activities, Ottawa is an ideal destination for major sporting events.
By hosting a myriad of successful big-name competitions throughout the last few years, such as the CP Women’s Open and Red Bull Crashed Ice in 2017, the city increased its ranking on the Global Sports Impact Index – which ranks cities based on their ability to host tournaments. Earlier this year, Ottawa moved up six spots on the list, becoming the fifth-best place in Canada to host a sporting event.
“Sport is really in the DNA of the people of Ottawa and you can see that in how groups come together to make these events happen,” says Kawamoto, adding that it takes a high level of collaboration between local associations and organizations to pull off these complex tournaments and championships.
Back in early March, Ottawa Tourism, the Westin Hotel, Wrestling Canada Lutte and the Shaw Centre came together to host the 2020 Pan-American Qualifiers and Championships in the capital, transforming the downtown meeting and convention space into a sports arena.
While there had been bids from across Canada to host the event, the ability to have athletes stay and compete in the downtown core, a short drive from the airport and minutes from local attractions was a huge selling point, says Tamara Medwidsky, executive director at Wrestling Canada Lutte.
“We had such a great experience in Ottawa and received amazing feedback from our athletes on everything from the venue to the accommodations,” says Medwidsky. “It was an incredible event and I couldn’t imagine doing it any differently.”
A new era of competition
Although COVID-19 has changed the way we think about physical gatherings, there is still a huge opportunity to host sports events in the capital, says Medwidsky.
The pandemic was an unforeseen hurdle in early March, however organizers of the wrestling competition were able to create a safe space for athletes by removing spectators, ramping up sanitization and creating their own bubble at the Shaw Centre. While it was a different approach to the event, Medwidsky says it is a great example of how sports can continue safely in this new reality.
“Sport is really going to be one of the important pieces that is going to bring communities back together,” she adds. “I can certainly see Ottawa playing a huge role in bringing these events back to life.”
As the city prepares for a new year of sports tourism, Kawamoto says the teams behind these events are working hard to ensure everyone involved will feel safe come time for the event. By following the directives of local health organizations, he says he feels optimistic about the impact these events will have on the city and the many businesses within it.
“Rebuilding the business community with these events is definitely a step in the right direction,” he adds. “There are so many benefits of sports tourism, and the number of people it brings to the city and the economic impact it can have is just the beginning.”
Ottawa 2021-22 Event Lineup
World Men’s Curling Championships
When: April 3-11, 2021
Where: TD Place
Sporting Tourism Canada – Sport Education Conference (SEC)
When: April 7-8, 2021
Where: The Westin
2021 Masters Indigenous Games
When: August 5-8, 2021
Where: Lansdowne Park
2021 Canadian Sprint Canoe Kayak National Championships
When: August 24-29, 2021
Where: Rideau River/Mooney’s Bay
2022 CP Women’s Open
When: August 22-28, 2022
Where: Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club