Athletes from across the country were joined in Summerside, P.E.I., on Saturday by the Governor General and the prime minister for the official opening of the 2009 Canada Summer Games.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets athletes from Nova Scotia on Saturday at the opening ceremonies of the Canada Games in Summerside, P.E.I. ((Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press))

"I am so happy and excited to be here with you in breathtaking Prince Edward Island that is renowned for its hospitality," a beaming Michaëlle Jean told the crowd at the Consolidated Credit Union Place in Summerside.

"It is your turn to stand shoulder to shoulder with our country's very best — your turn to show the nation what you got," Jean said, as athletes, coaches, trainers, and spectators cheered.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his own tribute to both the spirit of the games and to the island province.

"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," Harper said.

"And," he added, "they will do it while enjoying the natural beauty of this island and the unparallelled hospitality of those who call it home."

The national sporting event will take place in P.E.I. from until Aug. 29.

The main purpose of the games, which first took place in 1966 and which occur at two-year intervals, is "national and provincial sport development of Canadian youth," according to the event's website.

Organizers of the games were expecting an estimated 4,400 participants, along with 6,000 volunteers and 10,000 visitors. Sporting competition will be held in over 40 different venues.