Jeux de l'Acadie comes to Fredericton

More than 1,200 athletes and 300 coaches will descend upon Fredericton this week for the 38th edition of the Jeux de l'Acadie.

"We call it the Olympics for the Acadian people," said Raphael Moore, who is chairman of the organizing committee.

Youth ages 10 to 17 will compete in several activities during the five-day event, including soccer, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, mountain biking, mini handball and improvisation.

But Moore says the Games are more than just a sporting event.

"We have many, many cultural events during the Games, so it's a friendship competition," he said. "It's really about the friendships that we create, also learning about the other cultures."

Moore has been part of the Games for 25 years – as a competitor, a coach, and now as organizing committee chair – and said the leadership component of it struck a chord with him.

"You have some people that went through the Jeux de l'Acadie like Geneviève Lalonde, who made it to the Olympics, but most of the people who go through the Games will pursue a different career and will be leaders in their communities instead of an athlete," said Moore.

More than 2,000 visitors from outside Fredericton are expected to attend the Games, along with 700 to 800 volunteers – many of whom are not part of the Acadian community.

Moore said the games will have a $1.2-million economic impact on the greater Fredericton area.

"It means a lot to me that 17 years after the Games here, but also 38 years after the first Games took place, that we still have that sense of excitement about the Games," he said. "That kids are still waiting to sacrifice many things to get involved in sports or in other activities to come here for the games."

The 38th edition of the Jeux de l'Acadie begins on Wednesday and wraps up on Sunday.

"The biggest reward for me is to see their smile on their face, even though on the Sunday when everything's done, even though they're tired, they're happy because they made great friends and they had fun during those five days of the Games," said Moore.