Halifax has been chosen to host the North American Indigenous Games in 2020.
The NAIG Council made the announcement following its meeting in Montreal on May 3. Ottawa and Victoria were the other two Canadian cities vying to host the games.
This will be the first time the Indigenous games will be held in Atlantic Canada. It will also be the first time Halifax will host a sporting event this large. Approximately 5,000 athletes, coaches and team members from across Canada and the United States are expected to participate in NAIG.
Tex Marshall, co-chair of the Mi’kmaw Sport Council of Nova Scotia, was at the meeting in Montreal when the announcement was made.
“Tremendous elation, pride and honour that we were selected to host the 2020 North American Indigenous Games,” Marshall said about his reaction when the announcement was made.
Marshall was with other members of the Halifax bid team which included Halifax Mayor Mike Savage at the NAIG council meeting in Montreal.
Mayor Savage said he had to leave the meeting right after the bid team’s presentation because he was scheduled to appear at the East Coast Music Awards gala show in Halifax Thursday evening. He said he learned Halifax won the bid while he was still on the plane from Montreal to Halifax.
“When we were on the plane coming home (on Thursday), I heard a loud scream of delight,” Mayor Savage said in a phone interview on Friday.
“As soon as I heard that … I knew that we had won,” he said.
“To go from the bid to land and to go right to the East Coast Music Awards where Halifax is showcasing this weekend how ready we are to host the world to events, it was a pretty cool day overall,” Mayor Savage added.
The theme for 2020 NAIG is “Mawiomi”
The theme for the 2020 North American Indigenous Games will be Mawiomi which means “gathering” in Mi’kmaq. In the spirit of the name, the games will have a powwow-type atmosphere, Marshall explained.
“With the Mawiomi(s) that we have in our territory, there’s always sharing, there’s caring. There’s song and dance and of course, there’s feast,” Marshall said.
While a specific date hasn’t been set for NAIG 2020, Marshall said the games will likely take place sometime in July 2020.
The total budget to host the games is approximately $10.5-million, Marshall confirmed. The Nova Scotia government has already contributed $3.5-million to support the games. Mayor Savage said HRM will also contribute money to host the games.
Now that Halifax has been chosen as the host city for NAIG in 2020, Marshall said there is a lot of work that needs to get done in the next two years to prepare for participants from 756 Indigenous nations arriving to compete in 15 sporting events.
“I think we’re going to have to hit the ground running,” Marshall said.
Marshall added that Millbrook First Nation near Truro, N.S. has been chosen to hold the archery competition.
The Halifax bid team included representatives from Mi’kmaw Sport Council of Nova Scotia, the 13 Mi’kmaw communities, the Nova Scotia government, Halifax Regional Municipality, Discover Halifax, Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, Sport Nova Scotia, Halifax Stanfield International Airport and other community supporters.
The bid team got a chance to show the NAIG council the sporting venues in Halifax and Millbrook First Nation, N.S. in April.
Marshall said this is the second time the Mi’kmaw Sport Council of Nova Scotia submitted a bid to host the North American Indigenous Games in Nova Scotia. The first bid was to host NAIG in 2014 but Regina, Sask., was chosen instead to be the host city for the games.
The Halifax bid for NAIG 2020 was more thorough this time by adding more partners, such as Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Marshall explained.
“The airport has offered to put signage up, have extra staff on hand to greet NAIG athletes when they arrive,” Marshall said.
Toronto hosted the last North American Indigenous Games in 2017.