The opening ceremony of the North American Indigenous Games drew a large and enthusiastic crowd to Toronto’s Aviva Centre on Sunday night. Inclement weather postponed the ceremony, but did nothing to water down spirits of athletes, artists, parents and supporters from across the continent.
The number 88 took on a special significance in Sunday’s ceremony, a nod to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 88th call to action, which directs Canada to support Indigenous sports.
So many on Twitter joined in using hashtag #Team88 to express their support that the phrase was trending in Toronto.
Michael Cvitkovic, general manager of the games, said that "Number 88 specifically talks about calling all levels of government, corporations and the community to increase the opportunities for long-term athlete development."
“This is an opportunity to stop and understand the impact that sport can play in the healing and reconciliation," he added.
Team Manitoba volunteer Winona Morrison has one daughter competing in wrestling this year. Another brought home gold in that sport in 2014.
“If you don’t have a healthy mind and a healthy body, your spirit is not going to be healthy,” Morrison said. “It’s all interchangeable.”
Xavier Paul from Regina has been training hard in the hopes of winning a medal in the under-14 kayaking competition.
“I’m trying my best to get a gold, and get in the top three,” he said.
Games chief executive officer Marcia Trudeau-Bomberry told CTV News Channel that Sunday’s evening of entertainment and ceremony will set the stage for a truly unique fusion of culture and sport.
“I think the one thing that sets these games apart is the importance that we place on the cultural celebration,” she said. “Culture is a big part of who we are--our songs, our culture and our languages. That is included within our sports.”
The eight-day event will rely on the efforts of thousands of volunteers.
From July 16 to July 23, athletes between the ages of 13 and 19 will participate in 14 different sports, including basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse. Events will be held at venues in Toronto, Hamilton and Six Nations, Ont.
More than 5,000 athletes from all 13 provinces and territories, as well as many parts of the U.S, are expected to participate.