The North American Indigenous Games get started with the opening ceremony on Sunday night in Toronto. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports) They had one year, a limited budget and a staff of just 14 to pull off the North American Indigenous Games. For so many reasons, the NAIG committee could have made this about just getting to today, putting the show on and being done with it all.
But despite all the obstacles and challenges the NAIG committee has had to overcome, it wanted to make it about more than sport. The staff has been relentless in the efforts of ensuring a legacy of reconciliation.
The committee did that early on by making the theme Team 88, which references the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 88th call to action directing Canada to support Indigenous sports.
On Sunday night, at the Aviva Centre in Toronto during the opening ceremony, upwards of 13,000 Team 88 flags will wave in unison.
The flags were purchased by the committee.
"All the blood, sweat and tears our team has shown over the last little while, it’s this moment we’ve been doing it for," said Games general manager Michael Cvitkovic.
"It’s become personal for our entire staff. We won’t be able to fix things overnight, but in a small way we hope it’s the start of something big. There’s nothing like sport and youth that can help stir that dialogue."
Not only will every athlete carry a Team 88 flag, every spectator inside the Aviva Centre and at the viewing party at CBC will as well.
Cvitkovic says he wants it to be a moment of pause and reflection of where all these inspiring, young Indigenous athletes have come from, and then a chance to move forward.
"It’s a plea to say, ‘Listen, the momentum has been created and now. Team 88 has been brought to a national spotlight. How do we carry the torch forward?’" Cvitkovic said. Team 88 references the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 88th call to action directing Canada to support Indigenous sports. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports) There will also be Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action pocketbooks for every person sitting in the suites in the 200 level, which will mainly include government leaders, stakeholders and policymakers — a not-so subtle reminder of what’s at stake, said Cvitkovic.
"That in itself with those Team 88 flags waving will open so many eyes and make them realize this is more than just going down and watching a Leafs game or something like that," he said. NAIG Legacy Launch
Before the flags wave at the opening ceremony, there will be a closed meeting at the Aviva Centre for government leaders, stakeholders and Indigenous leaders.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Carolyn Bennett, minster of Indigenous and northern affairs, will be there along with many other politicians. It’s Cvitkovic’s hope that the meeting remains informal and is a chance for the decision-makers in the room to start a dialogue about Team 88, and how these Games can reignite a national dialogue.
"There’s been a lot of history within Indigenous communities," said Cvitkovic. "This is an opportunity to pause and reflect on that but to also look forward. That’s been our mandate. To stop and move forward."
At the heart of what Cvitkovic believes can be a catalyst in moving the dialogue forward is unity. He shares a story of when he worked for Tennis Canada a number of years ago with a colleague he holds in high esteem.
"Hatem McDadi was the vice-president of tennis development at the time and I’ll never forget what he said," recalled Cvitkovic. "He said it’s not Tennis Canada. It’s Tennis in Canada."Cvitkovic said […]
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