Canada Summer Games get off to fast start with 'incredible' opening ceremony in Winnipeg

The Canada Summer Games officially got underway Friday night as hundreds of performers and thousands of athletes from across the country took part in a raucous opening ceremonies bash in Winnipeg.

20,000 visitors, 4,600 athletes, coaches and officials expected to attend more than 250 events

Athletes from across Canada stream into Bell MTS Place Friday in Winnipeg at the opening ceremony for the Canada Summer Games. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The Canada Summer Games officially got underway Friday night as hundreds of performers and thousands of athletes from across the country took part in a raucous opening ceremonies bash in Winnipeg.

"Tonight was incredible. We had no idea," said Sherri Hogan, whose 16-year-old son Thomas Hogan plays post for the Prince Edward Island men's basketball team.

Hogan and more than 20 other family and friends from P.E.I. made the 2,500-kilometre trip to Winnipeg in time to take in the two-hour kickoff of the 50th games, dubbed "We are Canada," at Bell MTS Place.

Sherri Hogan and a group of more than 20 family and friends travelled from Prince Edward Island to take in the games and watch her son compete. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

"The magnitude of the entire thing … it really drove home the significance of what these boys have been training for for 22 months. This has been quite a journey."

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister thanked the approximately 5,500 volunteers for their commitment to helping the Games get off the ground.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Manitoba to show we can put on the best games in 50 years right here," the premier said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held his daughter's hand as Mounties led him, Pallister, federal Minister of Sport Carla Qualtrough, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand and other officials from across Canada into the arena to a wild applause from sports fans in the stands.

A procession of amateur athletes under the age of 22 competing in 16 different sports at the games filed into the arena waving provincial flags while another group of youth performed a synchronized dance.

Elder Dave Courchene Jr. delivered a prayer after the athletes got settled in their seats, with a message for young people in the audience 

"Make peace with each other and make peace with the Earth," he said.

The prayer was followed by a water blessing ceremony, performed by Elder Florence Paynter.

Nearly 860 performers aged nine to 89 from across Manitoba and Canada put on a show that included appearances by sports celebrities.

In one high-octane number, a live and equally chiselled replica of the Golden Boy — a gold-plated statue that sits atop the Manitoba Legislature — gesticulated with wild grace as dozens of dancers decked out in glowing suits wowed fans.

A performer dressed up as the Golden Boy statue struck an animated pose during the opener. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

Serena Ryder, Coeur de Pirate​ and Winnipeg-born alt-rockers The Bros. Landreth performed on opening night.

Trudeau travelled to Winnipeg Friday night to take in opening ceremonies hours after spending the morning in Kenora, Ont.

"You are not just athletes but leaders today," Trudeau said.

The prime minister said the celebration of amateur athletics has a dual purpose that transcends the world of sports. The Games are also about celebrating diversity and a new era of reconciliation with Canada's Indigenous Peoples, he said.

"Everything you do for the rest of your lives as leaders — the dedication and drive, wins and losses, all of these things come together to shape you into better Canadians and that is what we celebrate tonight," he said.

Prime Minister Trudeau addresses the crowd at the Canada Summer Games opening ceremony in Winnipeg. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The games run from July 29 to Aug. 13. Roughly 4,600 athletes and 20,000 visitors are expected to attend more than 250 events in Winnipeg, Gimli and Kenora.

"I believe all of you will carry with you something more valuable than gold, silver or bronze — the memory of this experience," Janice Filmon, 25th lieutenant governor of Manitoba, said to the athletes.

The nationally televised opening ceremonies ran from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT.

"[We're] at the centre of our country, and what a great time to be Canadian," said Tom Quinn, chairman of the Games. "And the athletes are ready."

Full coverage of the 2017 Canada Summer Games


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