Nearly 1,000 people attended the opening ceremony for the 2023 Ontario 55+ Summer Games at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre on Wednesday, August 9, 2023.
Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Neil Lumsden, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport were on site for the event, alongside other local, federal and provincial dignitaries as they welcomed the athletes to Brantford-Brant.
Graham Chittenden, a Canadian stand-up comedian and the host for the evening, spoke a little about what the games were, before asking the crowd to stand for the Vice-Regal Party and the Vice-Regal salute.
“This week, the City of Brantford and the County of Brant celebrate the excitement of sport, the thrill of competition and the achievements of all our athletes,” he said. “The 2023 Ontario 55+ Summer Games is supported by the Ontario government through its Games Ontario program with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The games are delivered in partnership with the Ontario Senior Games Association. These games are a celebration of active living and showcase Ontario’s athletes 55 years of age and older.”
As the event kicked off, Chittenden encouraged the crowd to cheer as he introduced each of the district’s flag bearers from northern, eastern, central, south central and south western Canada into the arena.
Dowsdeswell soon addressed the crowd about the importance of celebrating health and wellness.
“What always strikes me when I attend this competition is how it captures the essence of what sport and games are all about. It’s really about recognizing potential – no matter our age, it’s about celebrating health and wellness, about nurturing friendships that have been long established and some that are brand-new. In our younger years, or even later in life, we learn through sports and games from family and friends that they are our very first teammates and challengers too. Even as the 55+ Summer Games showcase the best athletes in their categories throughout Ontario, they brilliantly capture a spirit of friendly competition and we recognize from experience that we love competing simply because we have so much in common, not only with our teammates but with our opponents.”
Nathan Wright, Six Nations of the Grand River elected councillor, said that he looked forward to seeing healthy competition throughout the week and acknowledged that they were celebrating on the Haudenosaunee land before encouraging the many of the athletes to visit the Six Nations community.
Next, Ascension Aton:wa Harjo of Six Nations, and his father Adrian took to the stage for a traditional Hoop dance that later received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I don’t think we’re topping that, we can all go home now,” said Chittenden about the performance.
Lumsden was joined by Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma on stage as they acknowledged the athletes and volunteers present for the evening.
“The key to a successful games is the strength of the volunteer group and organizing committee, and a host city environment that supports, and is passionate about bringing people to their community to support them and to create a stage that is second to none, and that’s what’s happening here,” said Bouma. “The lessons learned in sport – no matter what the age or situation – they run so deep and for me, they were so important for my evolution as an individual and I’ve learned so much as a result.”
After Mayor’s Kevin Davis and David Bailey spoke to the crowd about their desires to be involved with the game, Chittenden welcomed Mike “Piano Man” Stoneman to the stage to entertain the crowd.
It didn’t take long before Stoneman’s music got the crowd of athletes dancing out of their seats.
Terry Jackson of Etobicoke could be seen dancing in the aisle to Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll with one of the many volunteers and even garnered attention from the camera crew recording the event.
Town criers, Brantford’s David Mckee and the County’s Larry Davis did a special announcement together before Chittenden later performed his own comedy routine that had attendees in stitches as he listed off a host of age-appropriate jokes for the crowd.
As the evening wrapped up, the lighting of the games cauldron was done by Doris Henhawk, 84, of Six Nations.
The District 25 is known for her gold and silver winning in both the Canadian Senior Summer Games and the Ontario 55+ Games.