Reality sets in after dream Brier

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:08 PM ET

LONDON - Peter Inch's voice was a little hoarse Monday.

Of course, that's what you get trying to hawk beer over a loud band in a packed London Convention Centre a couple of nights earlier.

All in a fornight's work for the chair of the host committee of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier, which saw an outstanding Canadian men's curling championship at the John Labatt Centre and a booming Keith's Patch at the convention centre.

Now, of course, comes the letdown after 18 months of anticipation, worry and excitement.

For Inch, there are windup meetings with sponsors and the final cleanup details at the JLC and convention centre, then a "couple of days' rest and walking the dog" before it's back to his real-world job in the heating and air conditioning business as general manager of Roy Inch & Sons Service Experts.

"I feel very proud of the job we did here," Inch said, "but at the same time, it's a bit sad because the event's over. You see everyone for two weeks and then it's, 'Gone. See ya.' "

Two things will stand out the most for Inch when he thinks back on London's time in the Canadian curling spotlight.

"One is seeing 8,200 people fill the stands for that final. It was always a dream to look out there and see that and it brought a tear to my eye. The other highlight for me was just hearing the ordinary fans thank us for the job we did. I had personal conversations with at least eight of the teams and every one of them said they couldn't believe everything we were able to do for them."

What Inch and his committee could control, they did very well, although he said there were a couple of changes that probably could have been made at the Patch in terms of bar location and the flow of people and food.

This Brier drew a total attendance of 113,626. That ranks it 19th of all Briers since the event's inception in 1927, but of greater note it's the fifth-largest Brier ever held east of Winnipeg. The Brier is traditionally a tougher sell in Eastern Canada.

"We went out and sold this Brier and I'm happy with the number," Inch said. "I like to set records ... but at the end of the day, I can say it was a very good Brier."

So now, what's next?

"We've had the big events like the Brier and (2006) Hearts, so now we might look at going after something like a world junior or a Canadian junior that we'd be able to hold at Western Fair, before going after another Brier or Hearts or putting our hat in the ring for the Olympic trials," Inch said.

"We're not going to wait eight years."

Inch said the 2017 Olympic trials were a reasonable target with a world or Canadian juniors within the next two or three years.

"We wouldn't need as many volunteers," Inch said of the juniors, "because it wouldn't be as big a job, but we'd still be able to show everyone a great time."

And that's what almost everyone who came to London for the Brier had, especially on the final Saturday night at a jam-packed Patch. That's when Inch was pushing a loaded beer cart around the room.

And if he wasn't doing that, he was helping sweep up around the media bench when it was being installed. Or he was directing the buses shuttling fans to and from the convention centre. Or he was helping a child cross the street to the JLC.

Inch was the personification of commitment to this Brier and it rubbed off on the rest of the host committee and the 500 volunteers, all of whom put in a stellar effort, if the feedback was any indication.

"I always felt I had to show them how I wanted them to work, not tell them," Inch said.

However, the next major curling event in London will almost certainly have someone else at the helm.

"I said I'd be willing to help bring another big event here and I'd be willing to be a volunteer, but I think it's time someone else was the chair," Inch said. "I'd be better off advising someone."

It would be advice well worth taking.

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SteveGatLFPress


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