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Saanich Commonwealth Games family to reunite at PISE celebration

Buncy and Raj Pagely, lead volunteers at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, still have the clothes to prove it. The longtime Saanich couple organized flag bearers at dozens of events in the lead-up to the
Buncy and Raj Pagely, lead volunteers at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, still have the clothes to prove it. The longtime Saanich couple organized flag bearers at dozens of events in the lead-up to the '94 Games, and on Saturday they'll be the flag bearers when more than 5,000 people attend the 20th anniversary of the Games at PISE.
— image credit: Travis Paterson/News staff

Twenty years after the 1994 Commonwealth Games changed the face of Saanich, Buncy and Raj Pagley are still fielding phone calls from some of the 15,000 volunteers they worked with during that time.

The married couple led the Commonwealth Nations program, which sprouted a series of grassroots events during the three-year build to the Games as the community was buzzing with anticipation.

“There were some very big gatherings long before the Games started,” Buncy said. “We had thousands come to the opening of Commonwealth Place.”

One of the couple’s many initiatives was arranging a team of 66 flag bearers to represent the Commonwealth countries at lead-up celebrations, including Prince Edward’s visit in March 1994 to open Saanich Commonwealth Place.

Fittingly, it will be Buncy and Raj bearing the Canadian and B.C. flags on Saturday for the opening ceremony of the 20th anniversary reunion of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, taking place at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the reunion, signifying the lasting impact the Games have had on Saanich and the Greater Victoria community.

The opening ceremony starts at 3 p.m.

“With the reunion coming, I’ve been getting calls from the 1994 flag bearers, they’re calling me now instead of the other way around. And they’re telling me about how their children have grown up,” Buncy said.

Back in 1992, the Pagelys and Buncy’s sisters, Ajeat Hoon and Bindo Lalari, were the first to receive the coveted volunteer pin for 100 hours served.

“We were proud to wear that pin, a lot of hours went into the events and the timing of the events,” Buncy said. “It was a new initiative for the Commonwealth Games to promote multiculturalism.”

There were so many events during the three-year run prior to ‘94 that designated flag bearers weren’t always available.

In those cases, someone from outside the Commonwealth, such as Mexico or Germany, stepped to incorporate as many cultures and nations as possible.

Of course, the Opening Ceremony of the Games stands out as a highlight amongst Buncy’s many great memories, as Centennial Stadium was brimful with 50,000 spectators. But those moments were nearly four years in the making, a movement built by 15,000 volunteers.

Saturday’s 20th anniversary celebration will also recognize Saanich Commonwealth Place, which stands out as a major physical legacy from the Games.

It’s sure to be a topic of conversation this weekend for two of the people behind its creation, former Saanich Mayor Murray Coell and current Mayor Frank Leonard, a Saanich councillor at the time.

“Coell and I were trying to get a new Saanich recreation pool built in Royal Oak,” Leonard said.

“It was part of my platform when I joined council in 1986. I was actually trying to put the pool near the Broadmead shopping centre and fortunately, it was defeated.”

Politicians at the time knew a 50-metre pool needed to be erected for the Games, and it was down to two other concepts: a revamp of Crystal Gardens in downtown Victoria to reinstate its swimming grandeur from 100 years ago, or an upgrade to a facility at the University of Victoria.

“People wiser than me came up with the idea to combine a leisure pool with a competitive swimming pool,” Leonard said. “(But) it was volunteers who gave the Games their pulse.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

  • The 20th Anniversary of the XV Commonwealth Games takes place Saturday, Aug. 23 at PISE, 4371 Interurban Rd.
  • 3 to 5 p.m. – ’94 Games Memorabilia and outdoor activities including adapted sports, physical literacy obstacle course for kids and a meet and play with Canada’s Women’s Rugby Team, and the Victoria Highlanders FC
  • 4 p.m. – Ground Breaking Ceremony, PISE Track Project
  • 4:45 p.m. – Official Photograph of 1994 Games Volunteers
  • 5:30 p.m. – Governor General Caring Canadian Awards: in recognition of the organizers, volunteers and Athletes of the 1994 Games
  • 6:30 p.m. – Reunion reception for Games Volunteers
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