Day 4 - July 3: Three days of excitement at the Pavilion
Photo: CIG Photo Team
This past weekend, Ismaili athletes from across the country were welcomed to Edmonton, Alberta for the 2011 Canadian Ismaili Games. In addition to watching the high level of sport played by all CIG athletes, there were also a number of social events.
At the end of Day 2, CIG athletes and their Edmonton hosts were invited to a Chai Night at the University of Alberta Pavilion. Guests enjoyed a heart-warming cup of chai over scintillating conversation while spiritually moving entertainment was provided by Ruh Ki Awaaz (Voice of the Soul). This devotional program comprised of qawaalis and geets performed by artists from Edmonton, Calgary and the National Ismaili Music Ensemble. The night concluded with full Jamati participation in rasra, a traditional Gujarati-style dance, to the live music amidst fireworks commemorating the end of Canada Day.
Anisa Lalani, a spectator from Calgary, commented, "The juxtaposition of physical sport and dance with spiritual qawaali and fireworks made for a breathtaking evening."
Athletes and spectators gathered on Day 3 at the University of Alberta Pavilion for the Celebration of Our Athletes dinner and entertainment program. While eating delicious jeera chicken with rice, bread and raita, members of the Jamat listened to the melodious tunes of Sasz-E-Mehfil, a world-renowned band who also performed at the celebrations of the first international Ismaili sports tournament, the Golden Jubilee Games held in Nairobi, Kenya. This was followed by the presentation of the first ever 2011 Canadian Ismaili Games Sportsmanship Awards hosted by star of the NBC show Outsourced, Rizwan Manji. The evening concluded well into the night as Jamati members, young and old, partook in rasra, both the traditional circular and the modern line versions.
As finalists competed on the last day of CIG, the Jamat was invited to a Farewell BBQ at the University of Alberta Varsity Field. Even with imminent rain, Jamati members enjoyed grilled burgers, Caesar salad, ruffled chips and a selection of fresh fruit as organizers prepared for the culminating awards ceremonies. Various performers and the BC-Based RRAFIKI band provided energetic entertainment at the Pavilion for the Jamat.
Day 3 - July 2: CIG gets hot for the finals!
Photo: CIG Photo Team
Things are really starting to heat up at the Canadian Ismaili Games on this blistering hot Saturday! It's been an event of its own trying to keep up with all the hype – from the swimming competition's medal ceremony to the intense men's basketball quarterfinal, Edmonton's sports venues have been vibrating with energy.
Locals and guests alike were blown away by the enthusiasm of the athletes and spectators. "You could hear the screaming and cheering from outside the Pavilion, it was crazy!" says Cheer Team lead Jena Krystofiak. "We [the Cheer Team] were even complimented on our signage and energy to pump up the Jamat!"
While basketball and ball hockey continue to ruthlessly rock their game, our swimmers brought their competition to a close with the medal ceremony earlier today. Athletes were awarded medals for events in 100-metre back crawl, 100-metre freestyle, and team relay. Many athletes from both eastern and western regions were awarded multiple medals – the skills in swimming were overwhelming!
No matter which sport is playing, the overall atmosphere at the Games seems to be radiating positivity. "It's nice being able to showcase all the hard work I've put into my sport," says Prairies volleyball player Raeesa Lalani, "[as well as] making new friendships and rekindling old ones." Both spectators and athletes alike will agree that the Games have been an opportunity to make new friends and unite the Jamat across Canada.
Faraz Hasanali from Edmonton's men's basketball team was impressed with how much effort the athletes have put into their respective sports. "Each game felt like a new challenge, we always had to bring our A – game".
Regardless of injuries and losses, athletes remain positive to cheer on teams from the other regions. Hafeez Dossa from Vancouver's ball hockey team continued to show support at the hockey games even after his own team lost in a close game to Edmonton's team last night.
Although the anticipation continues for the finals, the last few days have "truly been an awesome experience" for all athletes, says Azim Dhalla of the Prairies basketball team.
I can't wait for the remaining final games tomorrow! Basketball, soccer, volleyball and ball hockey finals promise not to disappoint.
Be there, #winning [follow us on Twitter and you'll know what that means @CIG2011].
Day 2 – July 1: Lights, Camera, and Action at the Games!
Athletes celebrate the opening of the 2011 Canadian Ismaili Games
Photo: CIG Photo Team
The University of Alberta Pavilion can remind many current and previous students of stressful exam season as we are used to sitting in endless rows of desks with our heads down in exam papers. Today, we returned to the same building with thousands of people - young and old, athletes and volunteers, coaches and spectators - for a very different purpose: to kick off the 2011 Canadian Ismaili Games in Edmonton! The Pavilion was transformed into a sea of colours with high tides of excitement.
Children hurriedly ran up the bleacher stairs, proudly waving their mini Canadian flags while spectators searched for the perfect seat. Behind the scenes, the dancers added the final touches to their dazzling outfits as the Edmonton Ismaili Youth Choir completed vocal exercises. As the clock minutes ticked by, spectators edged forward in their seats with much anticipation.
Within seconds of the hip-hop performers kick-starting the show, audience members erupted into cheers of volumes that would have put NHL and FIFA fans to shame! The event, emceed by CTV reporter Omar Sachedina, showcased the dancing abilities and singing talents of our Ismaili Muslim youth.
A particular dance performance stood out as it exemplified the unity prevalent within the Ismaili community; the act began with groups of performers showcasing dances from three different cultures – Bollywood, Classical Indian and Central Asian. The groups then joined together to perform a unique Syrian dance.
The much-anticipated performance of platinum-selling artist Mia Martina exceeded expectations. I watched in awe from the bleachers as athletes from every region – British Columbia, the Prairies, Edmonton, Ontario, Ottawa and Quebec – rushed towards the stage from every side of the Pavilion to join together and dance to Mia's famous Stereo Love.
President Ayaz Bhanji (Ismaili Council for Edmonton) hands the torch to President Mohamed Manji (Ismaili Council for Canada) as the Mayor of Edmonton and other dignitaries look on
Photo: CIG Photo Team
For Edmonton performer Rameez Karim, this was "truly a humbling experience to see people from every part of Canada not only come together but to cheer for each other and support one another. It felt like we were one huge family!"
Suffice to say, Opening Ceremonies were truly an inspiring and energetic start to an eventful weekend. These Ceremonies are sure to lead to many lasting friendships, memories and are sure to create a bond of brotherhood amongst us all.
Day 1 – June 30th: Welcome to Edmonton!
President Mohamed Manji (Ismaili Council for Canada)
welcomed by President Ayaz Bhanji (Ismaili Council for Edmonton)
Photo: CIG Photo Team
Rain or shine, hail or snow - Edmontonians truly know how to welcome guests into the City of Champions! Poor weather conditions and delayed flights did not dampen the spirits of our dedicated volunteers during the first of many athlete arrivals that would continue into the wee hours of the night. With Bollywood music bumping, crispy papri and delicious, swirly nan khatais - waiting to be dunked in a hot cup of masala chai, the welcome lounge was nothing short of V.I.P material.
Teams of excited volunteers were stationed all over the airport with their fancy volunteer tags and were ready to help whoever needed it! Their dedication and excitement was recognized by everyone, as they were swarmed with questions about who they were and what they were volunteering for. Our volunteers did the community proud! Even our guests from out of town were overwhelmed by the warm welcome they received upon their arrival into the host city.
It may have been a slow arrivals day, but it gave us the chance to meet one-on-one with a few athletes from BC's women's soccer and ball hockey teams. Over half the girls on the team are playing BOTH sports and we can't wait to watch them bring their A-game this weekend!
Well, today is another night back at the airport and we have over 200 athletes and guests arriving! Should be a blast and I don't know about you, but my excitement for the opening ceremonies is growing by the minute - I can't wait to be amazed by our local talent tomorrow!
Until then - Let the Games begin!