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Monday, August 08, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador hosts North America's Oldest Sporting Event

On Wednesday, August 3rd the 187th officially recognized running of the Royal St. John’s Regatta took place. Not that anyone would know it. If you were not in Newfoundland at the time you probably missed it. If you are not from Newfoundland and Labrador, you probably never even heard of it. So let me fill you in.

The Royal St. John’s Regatta is an annual event officially dating back to the early 1800’s, however some evidence points to the fact that these boat races were held as early as the late 1700’s. In fact, the Regatta is considered to be the oldest continuing annual sporting event on the continent. It also has the distinction of being the only sporting event that has its own holiday.

Every year in the City of St. John’s, the entire population wakes early and intently listens to the radio station of their choice. The reason is simple. If the wind conditions are right and the Regatta Committee makes the decision to proceed with the boat races, then a holiday is declared. If not, it’s off to work they go, only to try again the next day.

The day long event is steeped in history and this year consisted of 28 boat races, drew 118 rowing crews, untold thousands of fans lined the lake front and the day culminated in the Ladies and Men’s Championship races in the evening. The weather was not quite as warm as many had hoped this year, but that did little to dampen the spirit of those in attendance and a carnival like atmosphere abounded.

This race, as exciting and historically important as it may be, is a hidden jewel that has never caught the attention of television networks like CBC or TSN. In fact, the only television station to carry the event was the local community cable channel. What a waste.

Sports magazines don’t write articles about it, newspaper sports editors (outside the area) don’t mention it, even in passing. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that tens of thousands attend the race each year and hundreds of rowers practice for months on end to compete, one might think it was the figment of somebody’s imagination.

Canada has too long ignored its sporting history. Professional hockey is the only sport really promoted in this country. What about paying at least a little lip service to other Canadian sporting events? The sporting history of Canada is a rich one but unfortunately most people think it began with Lord Stanley, it didn’t. According to historical records, our sporting history officially began with the 47th anniversary of the coronation of King George III and the regatta.

The Royal St. John’s Regatta is a prime example of the type of event that should garner some Canadian press and perhaps even a little air time. History and tradition have always been important to Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. It’s just too bad nobody outside the province is aware of the rich past, and present, the province has.

1 comment:

MrChills said...

I have had the same feeling about the Regatta for years too, it is amazing that this event is so old and no one outside the Province (even the Avalon is some cases) is aware of it.

How many mornings have I woke up and seen Figureskating or synronized swimming and the like on CBC? Who in the hell cares about this stuff? Why not have the continents oldest sporting event broadcasted Nationwide for once?