Thousands of athletes are descending on Regina for the start of the North American Indigenous Games.

The games, which will be taking place in the Queen City, is hosting athletes, coaches, spectators and volunteers from across North America. It is the biggest Indigenous sporting event of its kind.

Regina’s airport was buzzing on Saturday morning with athletes arriving from the Northwest Territories, Manitoba and New York State to play in sports including softball and volleyball.

Neil Barry

Neil Barry is the coach of the under 16 boys basketball team from the Northwest Territories. The team will be competing in the North American Indigenous Games in Regina. (Google Images)

Neil Barry and his team of under 16 basketball players from the Northwest Territories arrived Saturday from Edmonton where they spent the last week training for the games. Their team includes 12 male athletes and three coaches.

“I’m most excited to see these guys in the parade and also on the court," Barry said. "Just being able to compete is what they’ve waited for all these months."

Players excited for games to begin

John Roche, a forward on the Northwest Territories basketball team has been anxiously awaiting the trip to Regina. It’s his first time in the city, and he’s excited to meet new people while he’s here. He’s also optimistic about their chances of winning a medal.

“[I’ve] been going to the gym and training and being with all my teammates and playing against different teams,” Roche said about his preparation for the NAIG.

The team won’t have to wait long to take the courts. Their first game is Sunday night against B.C.

“We’re definitely here to compete, we’re hoping to make the playoffs and make a medal run if we can,” Barry said.

Basketball is the first sport to start at the Games this week, with another six events starting on Monday. The games hosts 15 events including baseball, archery and lacrosse.

NAIG runs from July 20 to 27, starting with the opening ceremonies on Sunday. According to organizers the games will feature more than 3,700 athletes, 1,000 coaches and over 200 cultural performers.

All of NAIG’s sporting events are open to the public and free of charge.