After staying inside, distancing ourselves from loved ones and essentially adjusting the way we lived our lives for the better half of 2021, we're all ready to celebrate some good news. Though this year has been a difficult one for our city in many ways, Londoners proved to be resilient and flourished when finally given the opportunities! Here’s a bit of a highlight reel of all the big victories that we celebrated this year in the Forest City.
After the Olympics were postponed in 2020, many athletes faced some adversity in their journey to eventually competing at the Games in 2021. Damian Warner bundled up and trained in a local decommissioned hockey arena, while Maggie MacNeil made the best of training in her family’s backyard pool here in London. This didn’t stop our athletes from showing up on the world’s biggest stage! MacNeil snagged Canada’s first gold medal of the games and opened the flood gates for other Londoners to shine. Susanne Grainger followed shortly after with a gold medal in the women’s eight rowing event, then Warner, Jessie Fleming and Shelina Zadorsky closed out the games earning their gold medals in the men’s decathlon and women’s soccer, respectively. Warner would go on to be awarded the honour of carrying Canada’s flag at the closing ceremonies, and later in the year be named the Lou Marsh Trophy winner, as Canada's top athlete in 2021.
The atmosphere was electric at Labatt Memorial Park on a chilly Friday evening in October as the London Majors closed out a dominant win over the Toronto Maple Leafs to claim the club’s first IBL Championship title since 1975. The sold-out crowd of 3,300 kept the energy high and were thrilled to celebrate London’s boys of summer. Many of the same devoted fans were in attendance a few months earlier when the Majors brought live sports back to London at their home opener in July. Co-owners Roop Chanderdat and Scott Dart would continue their winning ways as Chanderdat was named IBL Manager of the Year and Dart IBL Executive of the Year.
After 579 days without a Knights home game at Budweiser Gardens, a sense of normalcy was brought back to London when Knights fans could return to their favourite Friday night ritual. The Knights seemed to follow the ‘dominance’ trend set by our London Olympians, as they came out of the blocks hot with the best start to the season since the 2004-2005 Knights Memorial Cup Championship team (who was also named CHL Team of the Century). They continue to excel, as they’re currently sitting in second place in the OHL Western Conference. Keep an eye on this squad to continue London’s winning ways in 2022 while they make a run for the city’s third Memorial Cup!
Early in November, London was recognized as Canada’s first UNESCO City of Music. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is the largest cultural organization in the world. London is now one of 59 international communities with this unique designation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, UNESCO contributes to the building of a culture of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. London has been awarded this title as a recognized centre of excellence and a music production hub. Part of this is due to the 1,000+ students studying music at a post secondary level. Being named a UNESCO City of Music is a renewed commitment to work collaboratively with the Cities of Music network to invoke positive change and drive sustainable development through music.
Country music took over the Forest City as London played host to the Country Music Week 2021 and the CCMA Awards Presented by TD! This event brought top Canadian country artists such as The Reklaws, Dallas Smith, Tim Hicks, and more, as well as industry members, devoted fans and volunteers from all across the country into London for the 4-day event. Events took place at various venues across the city including London Music Hall, RBC Place London as well as the newly renovated flex street, Dundas Place, and concluded with the live televised awards show at Budweiser Gardens. The event was hosted safe and successfully, proving to be a great way to celebrate London being designated a UNESCO City of Music, just a few weeks prior to the CCMAs.
On a cold November day in Quebec City, the Western Mustangs were crowned Vanier Cup Champions for the 8th time in Western University's history! The Mustangs took down the Saskatchewan Huskies in a tight match, which saw Western come out on top with a final score of 27-21. Mustangs defensive back Daniel Valente Jr. was named defensive player of the game, while quarterback Evan Hillock was named game MVP. This is the team’s second Vanier Cup under head Coach Greg Marshall, the last one came in 2017 with a dominant 39-17 win over the previous year’s Champions the Laval Rouge et Or.
This past year set the bar high in terms of accomplishments for the City of London, but 2022 is a new year with new opportunities. If there's anything that can be taken away from 2021 it's that when given the chance, Londoners will face adversity head on and succeed.
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