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Inaugural games have disappointing turnout.

EDMONTON

They were nowhere near as big as organizers had hoped for.

Yet Allan Ross, the executive director of the Alberta Indigenous Games, said the plan is still to stage the multi-sports competition again next year and on an ongoing basis.

The inaugural AIG was held July 17-21, with venues in Edmonton, Leduc and the Enoch Cree Nation.

The games attracted about 400 athletes, a far cry from the 2,000 organizers had at one point anticipated.

Five sports were contested: golf, track and field, ball hockey, basketball and canoeing.

Four other sports - archery, soccer, volleyball and softball - had to be cancelled because of low registration numbers.

"I'm very disappointed," Ross said of the AIG's participation numbers.

These games were created to help fill the void for Alberta athletes who would have been eligible to participate in the North American Indigenous Games. That competition, which was scheduled for Milwaukee in July, was cancelled.

AIG officials then scrambled to get their own event up and running. But they encountered plenty of learning experiences.

"We didn't get this thing off the ground until a few months ago," Ross said, adding in retrospect more time was needed to properly prepare. "And there's a ton of stuff we'd have to do differently for next year."

That includes securing both federal and provincial funding for the Games, something organizers were not able to accomplish for the inaugural running of the competition.

Ross said AIG officials also need to find some fund locators who would work on commission. Ross said he would return as an AIG board member, but the event needs to find a new executive director.

Though he received "a small stipend," Ross said he volunteered countless hours this past year.

"I contributed almost 24/7 for almost nine months," he said.

Though the Games did not attract as many participants as organizers had hoped for, finding volunteers did not prove to be a challenge. About 100 people volunteered for AIG in different capacities.

"We had the manpower for every event," Ross said.

Besides the athletic competitions and opening and closing ceremonies, AIG also featured an education and career pavilion. Fifteen groups, representing post-secondary schools as well as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organizations, took part.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Everything was smaller than we wanted," Ross said. "Due to the shortage of human resources, we didn't have the capacity to do justice to the concept."

Besides four proposed sports, organizers also cancelled a musical event, which was supposed to feature Aboriginal dancers and musicians.

Ross, though, was pleased with the feedback from those athletes that did show up.

"I got a lot of testimonials from all sources that they enjoyed the Games," he said.

The Games were not restricted to athletes from Alberta alone. Invitations were sent out to Native groups across the country.

Some athletes from Manitoba and the Northwest Territories also competed.

BY SAM LASKARIS Sweetgrass Writer

COPYRIGHT 2011 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Author:Laskaris, Sam
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Geographic Code:1CALB
Date:Aug 1, 2011
Words:482
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