The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

 

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Competitive Games

Competitive games simulating the Olympics have become part of Saskatchewan’s cultural fabric since Canada’s centennial year of 1967. The inception of the nationwide Jeux Canada Games has been followed by more regional and specialized gatherings: Western Canada Summer Games, Saskatchewan Games, and North American Indigenous Games. Jeux Canada Games are staged for both summer and winter sports, each in four-year cycles; Winter Games began in 1967, and Summer Games in 1969. Athletes from all ten provinces and Canada’s territories converge on the host site to compete in a variety of individual and team sports, usually those contested in the Olympics. Maximum age limits ranging from 17 to 23 are enforced; rather than give elite athletes an opportunity to compete, the Jeux Canada Games strives to give promising young competitors the experience of a multi-sport competition in a provincial team context. In addition to striving for medals within their own sports, athletes also collect points for their province: the province that earns the most points is awarded the Canada Games flag, while the province or territory that shows the greatest improvement from the past four years receives the Centennial Cup. Saskatchewan has never placed in the top three of team standings, but it won the Centennial Cup at the 1983 Winter Games in Saguenay/Lac St. Jean, Quebec and at the 1989 Summer Games in Saskatoon. Among the Saskatchewan athletes who have used the Jeux Canada Games as a springboard to international success are pentathlete Diane Jones Konihowski, speed skater Catriona Le May Doan, and hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser. Saskatoon played host to the second Winter Games in 1971 despite the lack of an acceptable facility for Alpine events. This was overcome with the creation of Mount Blackstrap, a man-made mountain created from landfill, 32 km south of Saskatoon near Dundurn. Saskatoon was also the venue for the 1989 Summer Games. Regina will play host to the 2005 Summer Games, which are expected to draw 4,500 athletes and support staff from August 6–20, with some events to be staged at Moose Jaw, Lumsden, and Last Mountain Lake.

Western Canada Summer Games (WCSG) are held every four years in the odd-numbered year between Jeux Canada Summer Games. Athletes from the four western provinces and three Canadian territories take part. The WCSG’s primary goals are to provide a competition that supports the provincial and territorial sports organizations’ development plans, and to prepare athletes for the Jeux Canada Games and other athletic gatherings. From 2,200 to 2,400 competitors and support staff take part in Olympic sports for individual medals and team points. Four of the first eight WCSG have been staged in Saskatchewan: Regina, 1975 and 1987; Saskatoon, 1979; and Prince Albert, 1999.

Regina and Saskatoon are ineligible to stage the Saskatchewan Games in order to promote province-wide involvement and to afford smaller communities the benefits of new or upgraded facilities. The Saskatchewan Games, begun in 1972, maintain a similar schedule to the Canada Games in that both summer and winter games are staged in four-year cycles. Saskatchewan Summer and Winter Games now occur in the same years as their Olympic counterparts. Summer Games have been held in Moose Jaw (1972), Swift Current (1976), Estevan (1980), North Battleford (1984), Melfort (1988), Prince Albert (1992), Moose Jaw (1996), Yorkton (2000), and Weyburn (2004). Winter Games have been held in North Battleford (1974), Moose Jaw (1978), Prince Albert (1982), Yorkton (1986), Melville/Ituna (1990), Kindersley (1994), Nipawin (1998), and Humboldt (2002). Athletes, coaches, managers and trainers number from 1,700 to 2,000; the team concept is achieved by dividing the province into nine zones.

The North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) are to resume in 2005 in Buffalo, NY, after an eight-year hiatus. NAIG were held in Edmonton in 1990, Prince Albert in 1993, and Victoria, BC in 1997. The 1999 event slated for Fargo, ND was cancelled. Participation grew from about 3,000 athletes and officials in 1990 to 5,000 in 1993 and 8,000 in 1997. Sports are contested in four age groups: Bantam (13 and under), Midget (14 to 15), Juvenile (16 to 17) and Senior (18 and over); heavy emphasis is also placed on the concurrent cultural festival. Prince Albert drew representation from all ten Canadian provinces, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, as well as eight American states.

John Chaput

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