THE 30th South West Games got under way last night with a celebration of years gone by.
About 6000 people will take part in more than 60 sports from today until next Sunday at venues across four regional municipalities.
A parade down Warrnambool’s Liebig Street, launch at the Civic Green and function at the Lighthouse Theatre heralded the annual festival of sport.
Camperdown Paralympian Josh Hose is the Games’ guest and spoke to about 100 people at last night’s function.
Among the audience were chairmen and committee members of past South West Games, who said they were proud and amazed how far the event had come.
About 1000 people took part in the inaugural edition — then known as the Glenelg Games — in 1983.
Warrnambool sporting stalwart Val Bertrand said the Games remained as relevant today as they did three decades ago.
“The philosophy has always been the same. It’s about participation, it’s about minority sports being recognised and acknowledged,” she said.
“They are the quiet achievers. They’re not cricket, they’re not football but they generate a lot of money for the area and a lot of participants.
“I think its very relevant. Hockey this year there are 600 participants, it’s just fantastic.
“Soccer has it every year, karate is the same.”
Bertrand was first involved in the Games when they were in Warrnambool in 1986. She said she was stunned at how big the event had become.
“Each year it was ‘gee we have got 45 sports’, and the municipalities kept egging sports on until we got to 60,” she said.
“We had marbles one year. We’ve had a lot of different events that provided participants.”
Geoff Mibus, who was chairman of the 1987 Games in Hamilton, said it was satisfying to see minority sports take the spotlight for a week each year.
He said he never had any doubt the Games would be successful for as long as they have.
“Even back then there were 4000 participants in Warrnambool, 4000 participants in Hamilton,” he said.
“It was still bigger numbers of participants than the Olympic Games.”
Peter Watson was chairman of the 1986 Games in Warrnambool. He said it was “good to look back on 30 years of success”.
Visit www.southwestgames.com.au for more information.