This Saturday marks the first official celebration of Sports Day in Canada.
Unlike other days, which build boundaries around passions that citizens enjoy for particular athletic endeavours, Sports Day in Canada is without limits. It's not meant to admire elite, high-performance sport, but instead to reflect the appeal of healthy, active living.
It's about the joy of playing games.
So far in conjunction with ParticipACTION and True Sport, more than a thousand events have been registered on the Sports Day in Canada website. These events ranging from dragon boat racing in Montreal, to learn to swim programs in Calgary, to wheelchair rugby in Richmond, B.C., are taking place across the country and involve hundreds of thousands of folks who come from all walks of life and in various shapes and sizes.
Sports Day in Canada is proof positive that being an athlete appeals to a vast number people from coast to coast to coast.
"Today sport is our most popular and universal form of culture," says Dr. Bruce Kidd, the former Dean of Physical Education at the University of Toronto and himself a Commonwealth Games champion. "It suggests a safe, comfortable and reassuring haven in a heartless world. I would like to think even in a good world, people would turn to sport for the joy, the excitement, the learning, the companionship and all that it means."
It means taking part.
ParticipACTION came about in the early 1970s as a way to promote healthy living and physical fitness and was nationalized by the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau in order to battle skyrocketing health care costs.
But this notion of Canadians feeling good because they take part in sport has been overshadowed by a spectator mentality where competitive professional pursuits grab all of the attention. Too many Canadians are watching games instead of playing themselves.
"Only 13 per cent of Canadian kids get the physical activity they need for healthy growth and development," stresses Kidd. "We had such a remarkable Olympics this winter in Vancouver and Whistler but there's not been an Olympic bounce in terms of increase in participation. We need to find more ways to get children and adults physically active."
Every sport will finally have its day.
But it means getting off the couch and back to basics to enjoy the magic of play.
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