| P.E.I. puts on a show for the entire country |
2009 Canada Games Opening ceremonies features music, dance and Canada’s best young athletes who are ready to compete
The Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE – It was Prince Edward Island’s time to shine on the national stage.
Saturday, thousands of athletes, coaches, family and supporters crammed into Credit Union Place for the opening of the 2009 Canada Games.
And they were treated to quite a show, from a rendition of the national anthem by East Coast Music Award winners, the Grass Mountain Hobos, to a rockin’ performance by Two Hours that had athletes on their feet and pumped to compete.
The two-and-a-half-hour production rivaled any awards show going, with flashy dance numbers, video clips, upbeat performances and all the bells and whistles.
But it was the athletes, on the Island to compete in the first-ever province wide Games, who were truly the stars of the show.
“So many of the athletes who are your role models, those whom you’ve admired since childhood, have competed in the Canada Games in summer and in winter,” said Governor General Michaelle Jean, who officially opened the Games. “But today it is your turn. It is your turn to make your way . . . your turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with our country’s very best, your turn to show the nation what you’ve got.”
The show, televised live on TSN, attracted ministers of Sport from all provinces and territories, various dignitaries, including the Governor General and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and media from across the country.
There were performances by the cast of Highland Storm: The Gael, the Confederation Centre’s Young Company, fiddling sensation Cynthia MacLeod, Chuck & Albert, Meaghan Blanchard, who belted out the Games’ official song “Look Out World” and numerous others.
It was an eclectic mix of P.E.I. culture, one that offered up a slice of what P.E.I. has to offer and had Canada’s best young athletes on their feet, cheering and applauding.
But the loudest cheers were saved for the athletes.
Ushered in by province, athletes and coaches were greeted by thunderous applause, camera flashes and cheers – the loudest for the home team.
Proudly carrying the Island flag, Summerside’s Andrew Costa and the rest of Team P.E.I. were the last to enter and were greeted by a standing ovation.
Since Canada Games’ inception more than four decades ago, 90,000 coaches, officials and volunteers have supported nearly 50,000 young Canadian athletes in their quest for excellence at the Canada Games.
“When I look out at these young people here, what a great country we are going to have long into the future,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Over the next two weeks thousands of visitors from across our country will get a chance to cheer on the next generation of world-class Canadian athletes. And they will do it enjoying the natural beauty of this Island and the unparalleled hospitality of those who call it home.”
Premier Robert Ghiz said hosting the Games has been a collaborative effort of Islanders from tip to tip. It’s now time this province’s time to shine.
“We’ve worked hard to ensure that over the next two weeks Canadians will enjoy the legendary hospitality of Prince Edward Island,” said Ghiz. “We are excited. We are proud. We are looking forward to the next two weeks.”
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart encouraged athletes and coaches to ensure they take home warm memories of the city and the Island.
“We’re going to host the best Games ever here in Summerside and on Prince Edward Island,” said Stewart. “We have great facilities, great volunteers, great hospitality.”
Canada Games host society president Joseph Spriet put 1,930 days into planning the Canada Games. Saturday, he was ready to celebrate.
“It is a rare opportunity for any community or region in this country to host such a magnificent event as the Canada Games,” said Spriet. “There are few things that Canadians do voluntarily and with enthusiasm that bind this country together like this event.”
He added, “We have invited you to come and play on our Island. And now I invite all of you to play at your best and share the spirit of the 2009 Canada Games.”
The Island Games is the last for Canada Games Council chair Terry Smith.
He had these words for the athletes: “Perform, have fun, make friends and never forget the Canada Games.”
But the best words of advice came from Summerside native and Olympian Heather Moyse, who competed in the Canada Games in Brandon, Man., 1995.
She tried to put the Games into perspective, based on her experiences.
Moyse said the Games, for some, will be the pinnacle of their athletic career and, for others, just the beginning.
“When I look out into this whole sea of athletes what I see is endless potential,” she added. “These are your Games. Make what you want of them. Make yourself proud.”