They had one year, a limited budget and a staff of just 14 to pull off the North American Indigenous Games. For so many reasons, the NAIG committee could have made this about just getting to today, putting the show on and being done with it all.
But despite all the obstacles and challenges the NAIG committee has had to overcome, it wanted to make it about more than sport. The staff has been relentless in the efforts of ensuring a legacy of reconciliation.
The committee did that early on by making the theme Team 88, which references the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 88th call to action directing Canada to support Indigenous sports.
On Sunday night, at the Aviva Centre in Toronto during the opening ceremony, upwards of 13,000 Team 88 flags waved in unison.
The flags were purchased by the committee.
“All the blood, sweat and tears our team has shown over the last little while, it’s this moment we’ve been doing it for,” said Games general manager Michael Cvitkovic.
“It’s become personal for our entire staff. We won’t be able to fix things overnight, but in a small way we hope it’s the start of something big. There’s nothing like sport and youth that can help stir that dialogue.”
Not only did every athlete carry a Team 88 flag, every spectator inside the Aviva Centre and at the viewing party at CBC did as well.
Cvitkovic says he wants it to be a moment of pause and reflection of where all these inspiring, young Indigenous athletes have come from, and then a chance to move forward.
“It’s a plea to say, ‘Listen, the momentum has been created and now. Team 88 has been brought to a national spotlight. How do we carry the torch forward?'” Cvitkovic said.