Canadians kick up their heels at Commonwealth Games welcoming ceremony - InfoNews

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Canadians kick up their heels at Commonwealth Games welcoming ceremony

Team Canada members pose for photos with Australian dancers during the welcoming ceremonies at the athletes village for the Commonwealth Games Monday, April 2, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
April 01, 2018 - 11:03 PM

GOLD COAST, Australia - A beach party broke out Monday as the Maple Leaf was raised at the athletes villages at the Commonwealth Games.

The welcoming ceremony for the Canadian team started with the four-man Mununjali aboriginal dance troupe, whose performance told the history of the Gold Coast. Then there were a few pithy welcoming speeches, a Canadian athlete was daubed with ochre — an earthy clay pigment — on the back of his hand as a token of respect and the Canadian flag was hoisted to the sounds of "Oh Canada."

"It was wonderful to watch the Canadian flag rise," Canadian chef de mission Claire Carver-Dias told the watching athletes and officials. "We hope to see that flag rising more than 100 times at these games."

Then came the playful side of the Gold Coast Games as dancers emptied out from a nearby camper van complete with hula hoops and beach balls. Lifeguards carried one dancer out on a surfboard while signs highlighting local beaches were rolled out around the circular stage.

By the time the 30-minute welcome ceremony was over, the aboriginal and other entertainers were dancing with Canadian athletes and officials to the sounds of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling."

A series of selfies followed before the athletes returned to their nearby accommodations to escape the bright sun and 28-degree Celsius heat.

It was a frothy slice of history and ceremony, well-choreographed with a heavy sprinkling of fun.

"A great show," said assistant chef de mission Benoit Huot, a 20-time Paralympic swim medallist.

Carver-Dias departed with a gift, an aboriginal shield for protection that will make the round of the venues with the Canadian athletes. The two-time synchro swim champion at the 2002 games also left the watching Canadians with some advice.

"Live the moment," she said. "We want all of you, whether you're coaches, officials, volunteers, government representatives and of course athletes, to live every moment. Be completely in the present moment. Enjoy your time here. Achieve the performance that you want to achieve."

She also told the athletes to "enjoy that moment and learn from that moment."

Canada was one of two dozen countries to get the official welcome mat Monday at the athletes village. As one of the Commonwealth heavy hitters, it got a solo slot — as did England and Australia who followed soon after.

The Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jersey, Singapore and the Solomon Islands shared the 4 p.m. slot.

The good times rolled all day.

"It's difficult not to have energy when you're in the Gold Coast," said Huot. "It's probably one of the greatest places in the world. I had the chance to go to different games over the years and so far, what we've seen not only in the village but the venues, these are ideal conditions for our athletes to perform and realize their objectives."

The athletes village is an eye-popping collection of relatively low-rise buildings that look like they were assembled by a colour-blind Lego aficionado. Home to some 6,600 athletes and officials from 70-odd countries, the secure 29-hectare area contains seven hectares of open parkland and 18 buildings, not to mention swimming pools and other amenities.

"If you ask the smoothie bar or the coffee bar, they know me quite well," Winnipeg triathlete Tyler Mislawchuk said with a smile.

The Canadian building is well-located, a three-minute walk to both the dining hall and the transport hub.

"It's been great," said Victoria field hockey forward James Kirkpatrick. "Trying to stay focused obviously but it's really cool trying to take it all in. It's awesome just being around with all the other athletes and seeing all different countries."

The games run April 4 to 15. Canada won 82 medals (32-16-34) four years ago in Glasgow to finish behind England's 174 (58-59-57) and Australia's 137 (49-42-46).

The Gold Coast Games feature gender equality. Organizers say there is an equal number of medal events for men and women, for the first time in the history of a multi-sport Games.

There is also an expanded para-sports presence, with 45 per cent more medals than four years ago. Some 300 athletes are competing in seven para-sports here.

"High-five to the Australians and the organizing committee," said Huot.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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