“It was a matter of time”: North American Indigenous Games postponed for one year (updated)

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Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the proper age categories for a re-scheduled NAIG. The original paragraph has been deleted because it was incorrect.

Add another log to the fire, if you will, because there’s another Games which won’t be happening this year.

But unlike the Arctic Winter Games, which were gutted altogether, the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) still plans on having some semblance of competition in a year’s time.

The host society for the 2020 edition in Halifax and the NAIG Council decided to postpone the Games for one year, meaning everything will happen in 2021. The announcement was made on Wednesday morning through a press release from the host society.

In the release, Tex Marshall, the host society’s president, stated that the collective goal was to keep everyone safe and healthy.

“To abide by the recommendations and guidance of the Nova Scotia government and its healthcare professionals is critical to slowing and eliminating this pandemic, even if it means the delay of something amazing,” he said.

Aaron Wells, executive director of the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT, sits on the NAIG Council as the NWT representative and said the council had a conference call to discuss what was happening.

“The chief public health officer in Nova Scotia had made the recommendation that we consider postponing the Games for a year and that’s what was agreed to,” he said. “Now, we work toward 2021.”

Deanne Whenham won gold for the NWT in the U16 girls golf competition at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto. She will remain the reigning champion for at least one more year as the host society for the 2020 edition and the NAIG Council both decided to postpone things for at least one year. photo courtesy of Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT
Deanne Whenham won gold for the NWT in the U16 girls golf competition at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto. She will remain the reigning champion for at least one more year as the host society for the 2020 edition and the NAIG Council both decided to postpone things for at least one year.
photo courtesy of Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT

The future of the Games had been discussed for some time before making the decision on Wednesday, he added, and that there was still a small push to try and have the Games happen in July.

“The postponement is the lesser of two evils in a way,” he said. “There could have been an outright cancellation, like what happened with the Arctic Winter Games, but all things considered, this is the best plan of action.”

Jordee Reid is the chef de mission for Team NT and she said the postponement was expected.

“It was a matter of time,” she said. “We’ve seen how everything has gone so far and you just can’t take the risk. We were still moving forward at the beginning of the month with our preparations but now we have some time to plan.”

That’s what makes this so much different than the Arctic Winter Games deal, she added.

“This wasn’t like the Arctic Winter Games, where it sneaked up on them and they had no choice but to cancel,” she said. “We still had a few months and now, we have an whole year to make a plan and make sure we’re totally ready.”

One thing the NAIG Council agreed upon was allowing athletes the chance to come back and compete, even though they would have aged out. The NAIG Council and host society both agreed to raise the age limit for each sport by one year to allow for athletes who would have missed out a chance to play.

For example, if a sport had U16 and U19 categories, they will now be bumped to U17 and U20 respectively.

Reid supports that idea.

“We were lagging behind a bit because we only had three sports where the athletes were picked but imagine the other jurisdictions who may have had a lot of athletes already chosen,” she said. “Involving them, even if they’re just a year older, is great.”

Wells said the next step is to tell the various territorial sports organizations (TSO) what will happen from here on in.

“We’ll be getting lots of questions from the TSO’s and we’ll try and get them as many answers as we can,” he said. “I’m hoping to have more details by early next week.”

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