After a year of delay related to the pandemic, the sixteen days of summer for the Canada Games flew by throughout the Niagara region. Although originally scheduled for 2021, the ambitious Games brought an entirely new format to Canada’s largest multi-sport event and can be considered a resounding success. The Games brought together more than 5,000 athletes and for the first time were organized on a regional level, instead of a single city.
The Niagara region proved to be the perfect host for this massive undertaking, with sparkling new sports and cultural facilities along with established tourist hotspots in Niagara Falls and nearby wine country. The Region also brought together more than 4,000 volunteers in its thirteen municipalities, each of which organized a cultural evening corresponding to the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada.
Impressive venues were built throughout the Niagara region for land and water sports, and existing facilities were repurposed for the Games. Perhaps most prominent among these was the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta Course in St. Catharines, widely regarded as one of the top two rowing venues in the world. Meanwhile, in nearby Thorold, the stunning new Canada Games Park will be a state-of-the-art multi-sports venue for decades to come.
The Games kicked off at the Meridian Center in St. Catharines before breaking out into two weeks of competition between amateur athletes representing their home provinces. Many compelling stories were written;
Newfoundland and Labrador baseball pitcher Jaida Lee became the first female pitcher to play in the men’s baseball competition, capping off her tournament with a trip to nearby Toronto to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Blue Jays. Meanwhile, in the wrestling ring, Eekeeluak Avalak won the first gold medal for Nunavut, Canada’s remote and sparsely populated Arctic territory. Or the British Columbia lacrosse team narrowly won gold in honor of teammate Ben Pawluk, who had cancer and was watching from his house.
In the end, the hosts, Ontario, won the most medals with 198, ahead of Québec’s 142, but the thousands of athletes and fans gathered to celebrate alongside Niagara Falls in a momentous closing ceremony, crowned with fireworks over the Falls. Before the first fireworks exploded, violinists got the crowd dancing as the baton was passed to Prince Edward Island, the site of the 2023 Winter Games.
The bar for this major sporting and cultural event was raised to new heights in Niagara this year. For fans of Canadian amateur sports, now is the time to swap wine for beer and waterfalls for violins as winter competition heats up on Canada’s east coast. Back in Niagara, there will be a lasting legacy of community and competition, along with memories of two incredible weeks.