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The Canada Games: 50 Years of Athletic Excellence

For the Week of Monday, August 21, 2017

On August 21, 1969, the first Canada Summer Games were underway in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The nine days of competition showcased Canada’s best young athletes.

A discus thrower at the 1969 Canada Summer Games. The Canada Games represent the height of inter-provincial/territorial athletic competition
© Government of Canada / Fitness and Amateur Sports Directorate / Library and Archives Canada

The idea for the Canada Games had been around since 1924. However, it was only seriously considered in 1962, when lawyer André Marceau, set up a corporation of Québec sports authorities to make it happen. On the recommendation of the Canadian Centennial Commission, the first Canada Winter Games took place in 1967 in Québec City. Since then, the Canada Games have been held every two years, alternating between summer and winter competitions.

The Games promote Canadian athletics by building world-class sporting facilities in host communities, and by donating profits and equipment from the competitions to local programs. In preparation for the 1969 Games, Halifax and Dartmouth built or refurbished 14 different athletic facilities, including tennis courts, running tracks and a baseball stadium. To create an ideal rowing and paddling watercourse in Dartmouth’s Lake Banook, officials temporarily drained the lake and removed an island that prevented its use as a venue.

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Harry Winston Jerome, a Canadian track star and Olympian, holding the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies of the 1969 Canada Summer Games
© Government of Canada / Fitness and Amateur Sports Directorate / Library and Archives Canada

The official symbol and original song of the Canada Games debuted in 1969. That year also saw the introduction of the early Canada Games Council and the Centennial Cup, awarded to the province or territory showing the most improvement from the previous Games.

Over the years, the Canada Games have helped to prepare athletes for competition at the national and international levels. Alumni include such prominent athletes as basketball phenom Steve Nash, speed skaters Cindy Klassen and Charles Hamelin, and hockey stars Hayley Wickenheiser, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos. About 40 percent of Canada’s Commonwealth, Olympic, and Paralympic athletes to date have competed in the Canada Games.

Harry Winston Jerome is a designated national historic person. To learn more about the history of sport in Canada, read "Mighty Jerome,", "Olympics of the North,", and Canada's Own Lady of the Lake in the This Week in History archives. This year is the 50th anniversary of the first Canada Winter Games in Québec City.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada, and be sure to visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada webpage. Explore Canada 150!

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