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Large crowds, road closures and heavy security expected for Pope Francis’ visit to Alberta |

Large crowds, road closures and heavy security expected for Pope Francis’ visit to Alberta  |

Organizers of the Pope’s upcoming visit to Alberta are asking people to arrive early to events and follow the rules so Indigenous residential school survivors, elders and youth can attend them with dignity in the spirit of reconciliation and healing.

On July 25 and July 26, people from across the country and around the world are expected to flock to the Edmonton area, where 85-year-old Pope Francis is to meet and apologize to residential school survivors, say a mass and participate in a pilgrimage. After that, the Pope will make stops in the Quebec City area and Iqaluit.

READ MORE: Ottawa to provide over $35M in supports to Indigenous communities during Pope Francis visit

Representatives from the province, the City of Edmonton, two police services and coordinators of the papal visit said during a news conference Thursday that co-operation from the public will be needed. There will be multiple road closures, no parking at some events and no overnight camping permitted at event spaces.

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“This is a really emotional event as well as solemn,” said Anne Wildcat, who is co-ordinating the Pope’s visit to the former site of one of Canada’s largest residential school in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton.

“Incredible amount of logistics have gone into this event. When we’re meeting, we have to keep reminding ourselves there are emotions involved here. It’s not just a visit .. and a few words. There’s a lot of prayer, a lot of hope. This will assist many survivors to move forward.”

Marion Haggarty-France, the Alberta sites co-ordinator for the papal visit, said papal visits normally happen after years of planning.

“We’ve had about four months,” she said.

The Pope is to participate in four events in Alberta after he arrives at Edmonton International Airport in 10 days. The Queen Elizabeth II Highway will be closed temporarily before, during and after the Pope’s motorcade takes him from the airport to where he is staying.

“As is customary with visits of all foreign dignitaries, Pope Francis’ security is being managed by the RCMP in close collaboration with the Vatican,” said an email from Laryssa Waler,a spokesperson for the papal visit.

“Given the nature of this work, it would be inappropriate to speak to any specifics.”

The day after his arrival, organizers anticipate a crowd of about 15,000 people at the first event in Maskwacis, where the Pope is to apologize to survivors. Organizers said no parking is available. Overnight camping is only available in nearby communities offering a space and those needing to do so must register in advance.

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READ MORE: Maskwacis, Alta., prepares emotional support ahead of Pope Francis’ visit

Some roads leading the Pope back-and-forth from Maskwacis and Edmonton will temporarily closed again for his motorcade.

Click to play video: 'Emotional support workers preparing for Pope Francis’ visit to Maskwacis'

Emotional support workers preparing for Pope Francis’ visit to Maskwacis

Emotional support workers preparing for Pope Francis’ visit to Maskwacis

Later that day, he is to meet the parishioners of a inner-city church in Edmonton that practices Catholicism with Indigenous rituals and symbols. This event is invitation-only.

On the second day of his visit in Alberta, the Pope is to participate in a mass at the Commonwealth Stadium with about 64,000 people.

READ MORE: More tickets to Pope Francis’ mass at Commonwealth Stadium available

Click to play video: 'Initial set of tickets for Pope’s mass in Edmonton booked within minutes'

Initial set of tickets for Pope’s mass in Edmonton booked within minutes

Initial set of tickets for Pope’s mass in Edmonton booked within minutes – Jul 6, 2022

The last event, a pilgrimage, is to take place that afternoon in Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., where 25,000 people are anticipated. Many are expected to walk to the county in accordance with pilgrim tradition. Some have also been asked to register with nearby communities that have made space for overnight camping.

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Organizers said there will be shuttle buses for attendees to travel to and from different communities. Attendees can register for the services online.

“We need people to register so we can figure out how many buses (there are) so we can get people there in a timely fashion,” said Shane Schreiber, assistant deputy minister of parks.

“Many people coming to the pilgrimage are coming from the North, from northern Manitoba, and they will bring their own buses. We’re asking for those individuals to register their buses as well,” added Haggarty-France.

“We require registration and that’s simply to manage capacity.”

READ MORE: Lac Ste. Anne prepares for Pope Francis’ visit

Click to play video: 'Small community of Lac Ste. Anne prepares for papal visit'

Small community of Lac Ste. Anne prepares for papal visit

Small community of Lac Ste. Anne prepares for papal visit

The city said people can use their registration tickets to ride on public transit for free to events within the city.

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“A number of road closures, traffic detours, parking restrictions, transit adjustments will also be in effect during the papal visit,” said Nicole Poirier, the director of civic events and festivals for the City of Edmonton.

Schreiber said during the news conference the government has invested up to $20 million to pave roads and upgrade infrastructure in the various communities the Pope will visit.

This move has been criticized by many, including the Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller while he was in Washington Thursday.

“It’s important that as part of investing in infrastructures in Indigenous communities that provinces are stepping up,” said Miller.

“It shouldn’t take the visit (from the) Pope to actually get the road paved. That’s a reactionary approach to things.”

Schreiber said the province is hoping to share the cost of the upgrades with others.

Haggarty-France said the archdiocese is fundraising up to $18 million for the Pope’s visit.

She said organizers worry day and night about making sure the events run smoothly.

“The Holy Father… is determined to get here but we also have to keep him safe and able to do the whole trip,” she said. “There’s lots of plans. Everything’s down to the 30-second increment about how we get there.”

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“We’re hoping to get it roughly right versus precisely wrong.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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World-record holder returns to Scottish heavy events at Embro Highland Games

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Heather Boundy, the woman who currently holds the world record for most caber tosses in three minutes, returned to the Scottish heavy events circuit after two-year pandemic pause at the Embro Highland Games Friday.

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A minor celebrity in the world of Scottish heavy events made her return to the sport after a two-year pandemic pause at the Embro Highland Games Friday.

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Heather Boundy still holds the Guinness World Record for being the woman who tossed the most cabers in three minutes. To establish a world record for women’s caber toss – there wasn’t one previously – Boundy threw 15 cabers, which can be anywhere from 14 to 17 feet long and weigh between as much as 90 pounds, in 180 seconds in September 2016.

On Friday, Boundy, who lives in Lake St. Peter near Bancroft and has been active in Canada’s highland games circuit for 20 years, competed in her first heavy events since both the sport and games across the country were put on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m competing in stone throw, weight for distance, weight over bar, caber and the hammer throw. … It’s great to see everybody, but it’s hard to throw,” Boundy said of her return to heavy events.

The the break took a toll on her physically, she acknowledged, “plus I’m sick.”

“Not COVID sick,” she said,  “but I’ve struggled over the last year with chronic inflammation. I literally just rolled off the couch (to be here). This is sort of a test run. I just want to throw in every event.”

Jamie Trask of Guelph took first place in the men’s hammer throw competition with a final throw of 96.5 feet at the Embro Highland Games Friday afternoon. (Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald)
Jamie Trask of Guelph took first place in the men’s hammer throw competition with a final throw of 96.5 feet at the Embro Highland Games Friday afternoon. (Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald)

While Boundy was hoping to shake off the cobwebs in the Embro competition, she said the two women she was competing against are truly forces to be reckoned with.

“Celine Freeman-Gibb, I’d say she’s the best in Canada,” Boundy said. “She’s amazing. And the other girl, she’s new but her numbers are really good.”

Long dominated by men, Boundy tries to promote Scottish heavy events to women whenever she can.

“Two years before COVID, there was a large number of women throwing and then a lot retired,” she said. “Going into their 40s and their 50s, a lot of them just stopped throwing. So the numbers right now are pretty low in Ontario, but out west and down east, there’s more women that throw.”

For those women who may be interested in trying out Scottish heavy events, Boundy is encouraging them to check out the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation website at to learn more.

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Lancaster’s MacKinnon preparing for heavy events worlds in Moncton

A 28-pound weight for distance event practice throw. Photo on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Maxville, Ont. Todd Hambleton/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network

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MAXVILLE — The tossing of the caber, the hammer throw and all of those other Scottish heavy events are coming up soon.

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Very soon, for Lancaster’s Lee MacKinnon.

The long-time competitor at the Glengarry Highland Games each mid-summer has also been a regular on the world stage, and in 2022 the event comes early, June 17-19 in New Brunswick.

MacKinnon, 59, will compete for the seventh time, at the Masters World Championships, this year part of the Greater Moncton Highland Games and Scottish Festival.

“This is the earliest in the year I’ve ever been,” said MacKinnon, who’s attended previous events in some places that would be considered a bit more exotic than Moncton, including Hafnarfjörður in Iceland, twice in Inverness, Scotland, Stuttgart, Germany, and, well, not-quite glamorous Buffalo, N.Y.

MacKinnon first qualified for the worlds in 2009, and the last time he attended was quite a while ago, in November of 2019, at an event held in Tucson, Ariz.

You only need one guess as to why it’s been so long between competitions, the 2020 masters in Ireland being cancelled, the 2021 games in Moncton postponed a year. With no Highland Games events to attend in Maxville the last two years – or anywhere in Canada for that matter – MacKinnon, like so many of his fellow competitors, is on the comeback trail.

And that trail started at the recently-shuttered Physical Limits gym in Cornwall, where MacKinnon this past winter hit the weights and cardio rooms most mornings.

“Those workouts in the gym will help,” MacKinnon said, looking ahead to the test of strength and technique in Atlantic Canada that’s now just a couple of weeks away.

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When conditions allowed for outdoor training in early May, MacKinnon, a retired school teacher, began his throwing all over the place, including with some local competitors, and at his dad’s farm north of Alexandria, and in Maxville on the infield at the home of what will be the 73rd Glengarry Highland Games, July 29-30.

“All I need is 100 feet of cut grass – nothing I throw is going to go any further than that,” MacKinnon said with a smile.

Twice a week, somewhere in Glengarry, he sets up his wooden trig, and does several dozen throws, for about two hours. One day he sticks to four of the heavy events, the other day MacKinnon focuses on the other four.

He’s a big, strong guy at 230 pounds, but that’s considered undersized in this sport, where some of his competitors weigh as much as 290 pounds – or more. So in a competition where technique is a big part of success, technique is critical for MacKinnon.

“It’s not just about brute strength,” he said. “I have to have the technique down pat.”

His roots in strength sports go back to the late-1980s, and what would be 10 years of powerlifting competitions that included a Canadian bronze medal win in 1994. In 1997, he switched over to Scottish heavy events, which was about the same time that amateurs could compete with the pros at Highland Games meets, and MacKinnon vividly remembers his first competition being in Haliburton, Ont.

MacKinnon enjoyed it, and had success as an amateur, in 2000 in Maxville breaking the sheaf toss world record of 27 feet with a heave that soared 32 feet.

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He’d often compete in a dozen games across North America each year, and when he becoming a dad in 1999, MacKinnon decided to turn pro and slow down a bit on all the travel. That was the plan at least, but that first year he still attended 10 different competitions – “but at least I was bringing home a paycheque,” MacKinnon said.

When MacKinnon turned 40, the master class was being developed, and he’d turn his attention to that category, and ultimately become a world traveller in it. His best result at the worlds came in Buffalo, when he finished fifth out of 10 athletes in his age category.

“I’d love to be on the podium (with a top-three result),” MacKinnon said, but he knows that’ll be a tall order in Moncton, being 59 and in the 55-60 age class.

But MacKinnon plans on staying in the game as long as he can, and has designs on qualifying for the 2023 worlds in the Netherlands, when he’ll be 60.

“I’d like to get to 10 (worlds) – if I can stay (physically) intact,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I guess that eventually it’s not who can throw the farthest, it’s who’s left to throw.”

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Early stage Euro VC Backed brings in another €150M, and puts a heavy focus on founder events – TechCrunch

Early stage Euro VC Backed brings in another €150M, and puts a heavy focus on founder events – TechCrunch

London-based early-stage European VC fund Backed is bolstering its position by adding €75M to its Seed fund, while adding another €75M via a new follow-on fund vehicle. The ‘Backed Core 2’ fund will continue to invest in seed-stage startups, while the new ‘Backed Encore 1’ will do follow-on investments in later-stage rounds of existing portfolio companies.

Partner Alex Brunicki said in a statement: “We’ve pushed ourselves to be an entrepreneurial fund… I’d say we’ve made it to our ‘Series A’. We’re developing deeper edge in frontier markets like Biotech and Crypto; we’re bringing nascent communities together – such as Coin-Op – in a meaningful way; and we’ve built an exceptional team to support our founders at scale.”

Co-founded and launched in 2016 by Partners Andre de Haes and Brunicki, Backed says it now has 67 companies with an aggregate value of €10.7Bn. It’s also claiming three unicorns: SkyMavis owners of crypto game Axie Infinity; banking platform Thought Machine; and the Ethereum Layer 2 solution Immutable X. It’s also had exists such as mobile gaming studio, Hutch Games, which sold to MTG for $375M in November 2020.

LPs in the fund include firms such as Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (through their Sienna Capital vehicle) and private firms such as Wilshire Associates, alongside 20 family offices and over 20 entrepreneurs.

The question is, with so many early-stage VC funds now playing across Europe, what sets Backed apart from the others?

Backed says it’s all about being “human-centric”. That translates into an 18-month founder support programme, with leadership training, workshops, in-house recruiter, mental health service providers and an in-house executive coach for founders and leadership teams.

In other words: a large swathe of training and events. Backed’s other ‘special sauce’ – it says – is plenty of off-sites and founder retreats. Whether you want to describe those as ‘parties’ or not is up to you, but it’s just as well that, in modern times, UK Prime Minister Boris Johson has re-defined the meaning of the phrase ‘work events’.

This emphasis on hosting translates into 30 events annually, from founder dinners to a 1,000 person party at the Finnish tech conference Slush, and co-hosting conferences such as Coin-Op, a global blockchain-gaming summit held at the London Science Museum. 

Backed also has 60 Venture Scouts in its network across Europe such as Maximillian Bade, GP at Nucleus Capital, Abi Mohamed, Programme Lead at Tech Nation, Saloni Bhojwani, Partner at Pink Salt Ventures, and Nalden, Founder of WeTransfer and Adelee.

In an interview de Haes told me: “During the pandemic, we launched three different kinds of workshop or webinar series for founders, such as how do you survive a pandemic and how do you look after your people. Now that we’re moving back to an offline world… it’s ramping up again. So this year, for example, we’ve got two three-day retreats in Italy and Ibiza for founders, six crypto gaming events. So it’s we’re going back to a much more in-person experience.”

The question, however, is how are all these events funded, given VCs aren’t usually in the events business?: “We’re funding from management fee and from voluntary contributions that attendees make up the events,” de Haes told me. “And then from sponsors, so AWS, Pernod Ricard – these sorts of businesses want to be associated with this clan of people.”

What next, a Backed ‘Fyre Festival’?


•   21% Web3 / Blockchain

•   15% Gaming & Entertainment

•   12% Biotech

•   10% Financial Services

•   10% Manufacturing

•   6% Beauty / Fashion

•   7% Food / Agtech

•   6% HR / Legal

•   4% Pharmaceuticals

•   4% Property

•   3% Utilities

•   2% Education


•   White male (71.2%) White female (6.3%)

•   Black male (1.8%) Black female (4.5%)

•   Asian/NBPOC male (13.5%) Asian/NBPOC female (2.7%)

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Since 2015, very heavy rainfall events have nearly tripled in Kerala: IMD data

Since 2015, very heavy rainfall events have nearly tripled in Kerala: IMD data

Forty-three incidences of very heavy rainfall were registered in Kerala in 2015, of which 19 were in June.

Nearly a three-fold increase was witnessed in incidences of very heavy rainfall across districts of Kerala since 2015, according to data maintained by the India Meteorological Department. While the coastal state experienced 43 very heavy rainfall events in 2015, the number of such extreme weather events increased to 115 in 2021, the weather office data showed. Very heavy rainfall events are categorised as days that experience rainfall between 115.6 and 204.4 mm.

Forty-three incidences of very heavy rainfall were registered in 2015, of which 19 were in June; year 2016 registered 23, of which 16 alone were in June; 2017 registered 38 such events, with September witnessing 14 incidences.

The year 2018 registered 163 such events, with August recording 74 such events, June 35 and June 34. Next year, there were 117 incidences, with 71 being registered in August and 22 in July.

In 2020, 110 events of very heavy rainfall were witnessed, 40 being recorded in August, followed by 26 in September and 20 in July. The year 2021 recorded 115 such incidences, of which 51 were recorded in May alone.

“Frequency of extreme precipitation events may increase all over India, and more prominently so over the central and southern parts in the near future as a response to enhanced warming,” Earth Sciences Minister Jitendra Singh had said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha to a question posed by Congress member Shashi Tharoor.

In Kerala, the total incidences of heavy rain (64.5-115.5 mm per day) in 2015 were 360 across 10 months, with the maximum being recorded in June (116), followed by July (61).

In 2016, a total of 225 events were registered, with the maximum in June at 108, followed by 44 in July. The year 2017 again saw incidences of heavy rain climbing to 360, with the maximum 114 in June, followed by 98 in September, and 48 in August.

In 2018, the number of heavy rainfall events increased to 607, with July recording the maximum at 198, followed by 147 in June and 144 in August. In 2019, the total number of such events was 528, with 184 being witnessed in August alone, followed by 123 in July and 101 in October, respectively.

Kerala witnessed 484 incidences of heavy rainfall in 2020, with August recording the maximum (132), followed by September (124). In 2021, there were 574 such events with the maximum being recorded in May (130), followed by October (112 days) and July 107 days.

The state witnessed extremely heavy rainfall (more than 204.4 mm per day) on one day each in 2015 and 2016, and two days in 2017. The year 2018 witnessed 32 such days, of which 25 were in August . In 2019, 33 such days were recorded with 29 being in August. The number of days when there was extremely heavy rain in 2020 was eight and in 2021, it was 11.

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Events delayed as heavy snow hits Yanqing and Zhangjiakou

Volunteers clear the course as the start of the women's slopestyle qualification has been delayed due to weather on February 13.
A worker spraying disinfectant at the Secret Garden Genting Grand, at the Beijing Olympics.
A worker spraying disinfectant at the Secret Garden Genting Grand, at the Beijing Olympics. (Dan Hodge/CNN)

The corridors of the Secret Garden Genting Grand in Zhangjiakui seem like any other hotel in a ski resort — but of course, the resort hosting the Beijing 2022 mountain sports is not just any other hotel.

Being within the “closed loop” that separates Olympic athletes and participants from the Chinese public means there are a few quirks to contend with. 

You’re joined in the corridors by dozens of hazmat-suited staff, one of whom is spraying a “disinfectant solution” that smells a lot like bleach from a hose attached to his Ghostbuster-style backpack. They pass through with their sprays at least three times a day, covering mainly the carpet in their mist.  

Relentless disinfectant seems to be a theme across the Games, with white spray marks adorning everything from the airport information booths on arrival, the PVC screen separating us from our closed loop drivers, to stains on black shoes from a freshly sprayed carpet. 

iFLYTEK Jarvisen, an AI smart translator developed in China used by staff and restaurant servers at the Beijing Olympics.
iFLYTEK Jarvisen, an AI smart translator developed in China used by staff and restaurant servers at the Beijing Olympics. (Dan Hodge/CNN)

Breaking the language barrier for lunch: In the mountain resort of Zhangjiakou, the hotels have restaurants ranging from Chinese food and Western-style diners to chain brands like KFC and Pizza Hut.

But one thing they all have in common is the language barrier between the primarily English-speaking clientele and our Mandarin-speaking hosts. In an (almost) Google-less China, there might be an app for that, but some of these restaurants are opting to use other hardware.

The tech that at first glance resembles a cellphone from the early 2000s is in fact the iFLYTEK Jarvisen – an AI smart translator developed in China. Our experience with the tech has been a pleasant one, certainly making mealtimes less stressful.