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Ottawa readies for 2021 Masters Indigenous Games

With some 2,000 athletes – plus their supporters and other spectators – anticipated, sports tournament and cultural festival expected to deliver major economic boost

Ottawa Tourism
Ottawa Tourism

Amid a push to bring more major events and sports tournaments to Canada’s capital, Ottawa is preparing to host the 2021 Masters Indigenous Games (MIG) – a vibrant sporting and cultural event that gives Indigenous adults from all over the world a unique opportunity to come together and compete against their peers.

Hosted by Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario (ISWO), the event will take place at Lansdowne Park and various athletic venues across the city between July 8 and 11, 2021. The itinerary will include a variety of sporting competitions for registered Indigenous athletes as well as a three-day cultural festival that is completely open to the public.

The festival will feature a variety of Indigenous performances, food stations, art demonstrations and more, giving people from all backgrounds an occasion to celebrate Indigenous cultures from around the world.

‘’I very much look forward to hosting the 2021 Masters Indigenous Games in Ottawa, when we will welcome thousands of participants to celebrate their wonderful Indigenous culture through sport,” says Mayor Jim Watson. “But this event is more than a great sign of reconciliation and partnership with our Algonquin communities; it will also be a great boost to Ottawa’s economy, helping us sustain thousands of good jobs in the tourism sector.’’

Ottawa, which is on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation, will host the Games in 2021 and 2023. Signing on to be the host city for two consecutive Games will build momentum for an event that can really draw on the capital’s many unique offerings, says Ottawa Tourism president and CEO Michael Crockatt.

Ottawa Tourism

“As the capital of Canada, Ottawa takes seriously its role in telling stories from this land, and an important part of this is recognizing Indigenous stories and storytellers,” Crockatt says. “Ottawa Tourism looks forward to showing our ability to host large-scale sporting events such as this and to welcoming the athletes and spectators who will visit Ottawa and enjoy the vibrant experiences that can be found here.”

Ottawa Tourism collaborates with the city on a joint strategy of “bid more, win more, host more” that’s helped to bring dozens of national and international events – as well as thousands of visitors – to Canada’s capital in recent years.

‘I couldn’t imagine a better place’

During the MIG, athletes will compete in a mix of contemporary and traditional Indigenous sporting events. While the schedule is still being finalized for 2021, the 2018 Games featured competitions in popular sports such as basketball, lacrosse and canoeing. Demonstrations of traditional sports, such as Okichitaw (Tomahawk throwing), will be showcased at the cultural festival, where attendees can learn about and participate in the sports.

“The Masters Indigenous Games are an important pathway to continue the dialogue and journey of reconciliation through sport,” says ISWO president Marc Laliberte. “(The event) gives people something to strive for, to look forward to and to be a part of, creating opportunities for wellness in a fun and culturally rich environment. Sport is a part of who we are as Indigenous Peoples; sport is medicine.”

Laliberte predicts the 2021 Games will host close to 2,000 athletes, a significant leap from the 600 or so who competed at the inaugural Games in Toronto in 2018.

Ottawa resident Maria Jacko competed in the MIG in 2018 after being inspired by her daughter’s participation in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), a similar event geared toward Indigenous youth.

Taking home a medal in each of the eight track and field events she participated in, Jacko says she is eagerly awaiting the MIG to come to Ottawa.

“The greatest thing about the Games was meeting other Indigenous athletes,” said Jacko. “Ottawa is the capital of our country. I couldn’t imagine a better place in Canada for people to come together to celebrate Indigenous culture and sport.”