2020 North American Indigenous Games postponed in light of COVID-19 concerns
Officials working to reschedule massive sporting event for summer of 2021
The 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) have been postponed until next year in light of concerns about COVID-19.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in K'jipuktuk/Halifax, N.S., from July 12-18.
Organizers are hoping to reschedule the event in Halifax sometime next summer, according to a statement released Tuesday. Officials say the decision was based on prioritizing the health and safety for anyone who was planning on attending the games, said to be the largest multi-sport event in North America.
"To abide by the recommendations and guidance of the Nova Scotia government and its health-care professionals is critical to slowing and eliminating this pandemic, even if it means the delay of something amazing," said NAIG 2020 President Tex Marshall, in the statement.
The event was expected to draw upwards of 6,000 people, from up to 756 different Indigenous nations, to venues around K'jipuktuk/Halifax and the communities of Aldershot, N.S., and Millbrook First Nation.
'The show will go on'
"There's been a lot of stress, obviously, leading up to this," said NAIG Council president Dale Plett, of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
"We're obviously disappointed to have to postpone ... we know how important this is to the youth of Turtle Island [North America], and so we are doing everything we can to ensure that the show will go on when the world is safer," she said.
The decision to postpone was unanimous, Plett said, and the idea of cancelling the games completely was not even considered during the last few weeks of discussions between the council, the local host society in Nova Scotia and regional and national partners.
"It is the right decision; one that was carefully thought out," said Fiona Kirkpatrick Parsons, chair of the NAIG 2020 Host Society Board of Directors. Kirkpatrick Parsons is a member of the Lac La Ronge First Nation in Saskatchewan but lives and works in Mi'kma'ki/Nova Scotia.
The organizers' top priority was the youth, she said. Athletes who have already qualified for the 2020 games will be invited back in 2021 even if, after the year-long delay, they fall outside of the age limitations.
Stakeholders support decision
Kirkpatrick Parsons said it's unclear what logistical consequences the postponement may produce, but that the local NAIG team has already begun discussions with stakeholders like the Nova Scotia provincial government and the Halifax Regional Municipality.
"So far, indicators are very positive," she said.
"Our partners and stakeholders are absolutely committed to these games happening for our youth. Everyone understands the situation that we're in, [and] we're grateful for that support."
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said the postponement was "a big disappointment, but not a big surprise."
"Considering that the athletes were coming from across the continent, they had to make a decision as early as possible. We all have to be focused on one thing right now, and that is the public health of the citizens," he said.
The games were expected to have a significant impact on the city's tourism sector for 2020, and the Nova Scotia government pledged $3.5 million in support when Halifax was selected in 2018 to host the games.
Savage said he believes all levels of government are already considering economic recovery from the pandemic, and that the games will likely be considered a step to that recovery in the Atlantic region.