Trudeau Thrills Athletes At Canada Games Opening
WINNIPEG, MB. — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wowed an enthusiastic crowd of young athletes at Bell MTS Place on Friday night as the 50th Canada Games opened in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg is the largest city ever to play host to the Games and the Opening Ceremonies was a heartfelt tribute to the youthful athletes by a big prairie city.
“You are not just athletes, but you are leaders today,” Trudeau said as the crowd hung on his every word. “Everything you do for the rest of your lives as leaders — the dedication and drive, the wins and losses, all of these things come together to shape you into better Canadians and that is what we celebrate tonight.”
Trudeau slipped through security and stopped to take selfies with the athletes. And the athletes loved it.
He held his daughter’s hand as the RCMP led an entourage that included Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, federal Minister of Sport Carla Qualtrough, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand and a large group of other political and amateur sports officials from across Canada to loud, appreciative applause from the nearly 3,000 athletes in attendance.
After nearly four years of planning, the 2017 Canada Summer Games Host Society (the Host Society) and Co-Hosts welcomed the nation to Canada’s largest multi-sport event for young athletes. When it was born in 1967, it was heralded as “a first opportunity for young and up-and-coming Canadian athletes to experience a multi-sport event like the Olympics for the first time.” It has endured, mostly as a small-town celebration, for 50 years.
Friday night, however, the big city took over and held the Opening Ceremonies in its National Hockey League arena.
This year’s Games will feature 16 sports with more than 250 events and a major cultural festival. There will be more than 4,000 athletes and coaches, plus 500 officials and, the city hopes, more than 20,000 visitors from July 28 to Aug. 13.
Pallister spoke and thanked the volunteers – almost 5,500 in total — for their commitment to helping the Games get off the ground.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Manitoba,” said Pallister. “We can show that we can put on the best games in 50 years right here.
All the athletes in the Games are under the age of 22. They entered Bell MTS Place waving their provincial flags. Sagkeeng First Nation Elder Dave Courchene Jr. (Nii Gaani Aki Inini or Leading Earth Man), the founder of Turtle Lodge, opened the ceremonies with a prayer and added, “Make peace with each other and make peace with the Earth.”
Nearly 860 performers of all ages from across the country performed on Friday night while Serena Ryder, Coeur de Pirate and Winnipeg-born rockers The Bros. Landreth were the Opening Ceremony performers.
“The athletes have been top of mind in every aspect of preparation for the Games,” said Jeff Hnatiuk, President and CEO of the 2017 Canada Summer Games Host Society. “From first-rate sport venues and entertainment to accommodations and transportation, our team is focused on delivering an exceptional athlete experience. We can’t wait to watch them compete starting on Saturday.”
—Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo – Patrick Kenny, 2017 Canada Games Host Society
Photo – Monique Ditter