British Columbia and Surrey will host 12 world-class women’s softball teams next month, in one of the most significant softball tournaments in the city’s history.

Team Canada will vie for a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games, when the 2019 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Americas Olympic Qualifier tournament is held at Softball City, Aug. 25 to Sept. 1st.

“Top athletes are role models who inspire us to strive for our personal best and teach us the importance of teamwork and fair play,” said Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism. “Sport has the power to drive positive change for gender equity in our society and empowers girls and women to be active participants and leaders. We’re proud to support this international event, to help inspire young women to get into sport.”

The Province is providing $150,000 through the Tourism Events Program and the Major Events Program. Event organizers estimate the tournament will have an economic impact of $10 million for B.C.

“B.C. has some of the best athletes, coaches, managers and sport staff in the world, and women’s softball is a great example,” said Garry Begg, MLA for Surrey-Guildford. “Surrey is internationally known as a great sport host and it’s exciting that we get to be here to cheer on Team Canada, including eight players from B.C., as they chase the Olympic dream.”

Top competitions like this international qualifier tournament attract visitors to British Columbia, have a significant positive economic benefit for local businesses and residents, and reinforce B.C.’s reputation as a global destination for major sport events.

“The dedication shown by the provincial government for youth and amateur sport is inspiring,” said Greg Timm, organizing committee chair. “The committee, our volunteers and the players are incredibly grateful that government has stepped up to the plate and provided an opportunity for Canada’s national team to host the Olympic qualifier on home soil.”

Canada is ranked third in the world for women’s softball and is considered a top contender in the tournament. Competing for two of the six berths in women’s softball at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games will be:

* Group A – Canada, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Cuba, Guatemala and Argentina

* Group B – Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, British Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic

“There is no greater honour than playing for your country, and the qualifier is going to be pivotal in fulfilling that dream,” said Danielle Lawrie, national team pitcher and former Olympian. “I know my teammates and coaching staff are grateful for the provincial government’s support. We look forward to coming to Surrey in a few short weeks and qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Games.”

Quick Facts:

* B.C. is supporting softball’s return to the Olympic Games, as 2020 will be the first Olympic Games to feature the sport since 2008.

* In May 2019, the Province announced $2.5 million over the next three years to allow Sport BC to expand programs aimed at increasing participation by children who are often under-represented in sport.

* Government recently provided $1.46 million in funding to offset costs for more than 500 athletes, coaches, chaperones and mission staff from B.C. to attend the 2020 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax, N.S.

* Sport tourism events draw 2.3 million visitors to B.C. annually. More than half of sport tourists are from the U.S. and abroad.

* Tourism is a major economic driver in B.C, generating $18.4 billion in revenues in 2016 and employing over 137,000 people.

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