Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony to be streamed online in 8 Indigenous languages

CBC will provide live online coverage of Friday morning’s opening ceremony in eight Indigenous languages.

Olympics begin Friday at 7 a.m. ET

Kowisa Arlooktoo will be providing coverage of the opening ceremony in Inuktitut. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Dorothy Stewart is excited to be among a group of hosts bringing the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to their communities in Indigenous languages.

CBC will be providing live online coverage of Friday's opening ceremony in eight Indigenous languages.

"It's a privilege and I'm so honoured to be doing this," said Stewart, who will be hosting in Eastern Cree.

Stewart, based in Montreal, is the host of the CBC North radio show Winschgaoug which airs across James Bay Cree communities in Quebec. She's been taking language classes to keep her vocabulary fresh with the region's three different dialects, especially when it comes to terminology around the Olympic sports.

Dorothy Stewart is a member of the Cree Nation of Wemindji. She is the host of Winschgaoug, a Cree-language radio morning show on CBC North. (CBC)

Like many Indigenous languages, Cree is descriptive.

"In terms of just saying 'Olympics,' I can say the word 'Olympics' but I have to add to it that this is where people compete in sport," she said.

"It's a bit challenging, but I've been practising already and I've been trying to do as best I can."

William Firth, the Inuvik, N.W.T.-based host of CBC North's Gwich'in language radio show Nantaii, expects similar challenges, but he's excited about them.

Many of the Olympic summer sports are new concepts in Gwich'in, he said. The word for "javelin," for example, translates to "throwing a spear." 

"We have to describe the actual game itself in order for people to get a mental picture," he said.

"I'm going to have fun with that."

CBC host William Firth will be providing coverage of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in Gwich'in. (Samantha Stuart Photography)

CBC North's Kowisa Arlooktoo and Jordan Konek, based in Iqaluit, will be co-hosting the opening ceremony in Inuktitut.

"There's a lot of Inuit that don't speak or understand English, but there are lots of great big sports fans," said Arlooktoo.

"We can explain to our listeners and our viewers what's happening in the opening ceremonies and what to expect during the Olympic Games. That's what makes it gratifying for me."

Konek said it's important to show how Inuktitut can be used in the work that they do at CBC serving Inuit audiences.

"You realize how important the language is when you go to communities and meet people," he said.

"This opens the door for many other things that we're going to be capable of doing and prove that this is something that we can do in our own language. So for the audience, I look forward to making this available and seeing what the reaction is from the public."

Jordan Konek and Kowisa Arlooktoo will be co-hosting the opening ceremony in Inuktitut. (CBC)

Coverage in English, Eastern Cree, Dehcho Dene, Dënësųłinë́ Yałtı, Gwichʼin, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, Sahtu Dene, Tłı̨chǫ, as well as American Sign Language and described video will stream live Friday starting at 7 a.m. ET on CBC Gem, the CBC Olympics app, and

Radio-Canada will stream live coverage in French, Quebec Sign Language and described video on ICI TOU.TV and

"We want CBC/Radio-Canada's coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony to be available to everyone," said Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, in a statement.

"We're especially pleased to be broadening our program to include coverage in eight Indigenous languages. I hope everyone across the country will tune in on Friday morning — and throughout the Games!"

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 take place July 23 to Aug. 8 and will feature 33 sports and 339 medal events across 42 competition venues. 


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawà:ke, south of Montreal. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.