Francophone games hit the ground running today
Opening ceremonies for the games will be held tonight at Riverfront Park
The 2017 Canadian Francophone Games kick off Tuesday in Moncton with close to 1,000 youth from across the country competing.
François Poirier of Grand Barachois — who will be participating in the leadership competition of the games — was selected as one of the New Brunswick flag bearers for the "Right Fiers" opening ceremonies Tuesday night.
"I was really touched when they announced that I was going to bring the flag," he said. "We're the hosting province for the games, so it's really special for me to lead the province that I hope is going to get the best cheer."
Athletes and participants between the ages of 13 and 18 will compete in three divisions of the games: arts, leadership and sports.
"It's just amazing to see all these youth come together in Moncton," Poirier said.
It's Kyla Hughes's second time competing in the games. The Cocagne native is competing track and field competition.
"It's great all over again, but nice that's in our province and where we're from," she said.
She, too, was chosen as one of the two flag bearers for the games.
"It was a huge surprise," she said. "I'm really honoured and excited."
She's not new to competitions. Hughes has been competing in track and field for three years now and has already reached the national level.
But, she's a bit nervous about the week ahead. "Everything, meeting new people the whole experience," she said.
Joëlle Martin, general manager for games, said the team of 750 volunteers and 200 chaperons are excited for the week to officially kick off.
"We've been working on this for two-and-a-half years so everybody is very anxious and happy," she said. "I feel a positive vibe all over campus with our volunteers and employees."
For the first time in 12 years, the games will host participants from the Yukon, Martin said.
Bringing French youth together
The games are for youth who attend French school or French immersion, Martin said. The youth will also be spending the entire week immersed in the French language and culture.
"They can live in French, 100 per cent of their life exclusively in French," said Martin.
Both Poirier and Hughes are excited to see old friends and meet new ones competing in the games this year.
"I know people from Acadian Peninsula or from the Edmundston region but we don't often get to meet together and share our passions," Poirier said.
"It just shows that it is a popular language," Hughes said.
Martin said the games can be eye-opening for some youth because they don't realize how prominent French is in other parts of the country.
"We don't often get the chance to meet other francophones, and sometimes even the kids they don't know there are francophones in Alberta," she said. "But there are and they are coming strong here in the games.
"It gives them a chance to mingle and make some friends and friendship that last a lifetime."
Poirier said he's excited to compete at the games this week, "but it's not all about the competition."
The opening ceremonies will begin with an athlete and participant parade on Main Street beginning at 6:45 p.m., which will finish at the Riverfront Park, where the official ceremony starts at 8 p.m.
The games run from July 11 to July 15, exclusively at the Université de Moncton campus and are open to the public.
The games have been running since 1999.