After months of anticipation, honorary torchbearer Senator Nancy Greene Raine lit the ceremonial flame that ushered in the BC Seniors Games on Wednesday night.
Thousands of beaming athletes from all over the province giddily filed into the Tournament Capital Centre for the opening ceremony to the largest multi-sport event ever to come to Kamloops.
And a large number of the 3,800 competitors, all aged over 55, already had hardware dangling from their necks after two days of medal conferring competition.
By press time, 19 medals were in the hands of athletes from the South Central zone, which covers Kamloops and 23 other surrounding communities.
"Are there any seniors in this area not participating in (South Central) zone?" asked ceremony emcee Larry Read, so vast was the group filing into the stadium.
They and co-competitors from 11 other zones were regaled with greetings from local, provincial and games dignitaries.
Kamloops has been preparing for the athletes' arrival for months, said Acting Mayor Ken Christian.
"We planted 3,800 marigolds for each one of you," he said.
He congratulated the gathering for being "poster children" for a society that's aging in a creative and inclusive way.
"The elixir for good health comes from keeping fit and maintaining connections," he said.
The athletes also enjoyed the full embrace of local First Nations with an opening prayer by elder
Dolly Thomas and words of encouragement from Tk'emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson.
"I don't know if I should call you elders or senior citizens — I'll just call you athletes," said Gottfriedson prompting loud applause.
He also highlighted the essence of the games — camaraderie.
"When we play sports it's not about what colour your skin is it's all about fun and friendship."
The Kamloopa Powwow was briefly re-enacted for the crowd with a performance by local drum and dance ensemble Sage Hills.
They were just the beginning of a long list of performances in a variety of mediums, from country singer to opera to a modern fusion belly dance.
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake also sparked sustained applause by mentioning the 1,300 volunteers who are making the games possible.
Lake put on his Minister of Health hat to commend the gathering for their commitment to healthy living.
Lake is also competing in the games and left off with a stern albeit tongue-in-cheek warning.
"Treat each other well on the field. Unless you're playing tomorrow at 8:30 and I don't care who you are, don't get in my way."
B.C.'s minister of sport Coralee Oakes wrapped up the proceedings by lighting the games torch, which was carried by honorary torchbearer Green Raine.
It will remain lit until the event wraps up on Saturday.