Thousands of Ismailis gathered in Calgary during the first weekend of August to take part in the 2015 Canadian Ismaili Games. The athletic calibre and success of the event fueled aspirations for golden glory on the international stage.

“Leave Your Mark” implored posters and banner for the 2015 Canadian Ismaili Games.

And the athletes did — running, swimming, dancing, and scoring their way to victory. Their efforts were matched by the volunteers, families and spectators who supported them.

Thousands of Ismailis gathered in Calgary during the first weekend of August to take part in the national sporting event, which serves as a qualifier for the 2016 international Jubilee Games in Dubai.

The Canadian Games concluded with a closing ceremony held at the BMO Centre and Stampede Corral.

Higher aspirations

Ismaili Council for Canada Vice-President Karima Karmali said the Canadian Ismaili Games brought Canada one step closer to the international Jubilee Games. Speaking at the closing ceremony, she made a point of of recognising Ismailis competing on the world stage.

“We are also immensely proud of our elite Ismaili athletes,” she said, “including Hanif Mawji who was selected to represent Team Canada at the upcoming Parapan American Games in Toronto for the sport of boccia, and Adil Shamasdin, a world ranked tennis player who recently competed in Wimbledon.” Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi — who was out of the country at the time — also addressed the crowd in a videotaped speech.

“The Canadian Ismaili Games are very, very important to our evolution as a community, as a proud Ismaili community, as a proud Muslim community, within the context of Canada as a whole,” said the mayor.

“Through the work we do every day to build Canada with our hands, our hearts, our minds and our souls, we make a huge difference to making sure Canada remains that pluralistic society where every single person has opportunity.”

Making the most of opportunity

Umair Shivji, gold medallist in solo dance, only started dancing three years ago when he was asked to perform at a Jamati New Year’s celebration. The 17-year-old had never taken dance training or attended a dance class, yet at the Games, he was able to take on many competitors who had.

Shivji and DiverseCity, the gold medal-winning team in group dance from Ontario, gave encore performances at the closing ceremonies and were part of an entertainment lineup that included local Aboriginal dance group the Wandering Spirits and a fusion dance medley produced by the local Arts & Culture team. The proceedings were emceed by Toronto Sportsnet host, Faisal Khamisa.

For Shivji, the 2015 Canadian Ismaili Games left their mark: “It’s something that’ll always be close to my heart and I’ll always remember. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this.”

Hosting a nation

Anisa Pira was one of an estimated 1 300 volunteers who made the visitors feel welcome. “I loved every minute of it,” said the 45-year-old.

Pira had spent Thursday to Sunday serving food and refreshments to guests from across Canada. “We had so many nice people around us, and we were blessed to have them.”

Fauzia Lalani-Khudabux, President of the Ismaili Council for the Prairies, says the Calgary Jamat was happy to host the Games and welcome so many visitors. She hopes “that they felt at home and they were cared for, and that they saw fantastic sports and competition.”

From the smiles on the faces of the nearly 10 000 people who attended Sunday night’s celebrations at the BMO Centre and Stampede Corral, it’s a fair bet her hopes were realised.