They're primed and ready

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

One of North America's sport exports was celebrated here last night at the opening ceremonies of the world lacrosse championships.

Canada's official summer sport, adopted from aboriginals, will be front and centre in London for the next nine days as 21 teams from as many countries compete in the tournament that is held every four years.

"It's appropriate that we are here in the Canadian summer to celebrate this game," Peter Hobbs of the International Lacrosse Federation said in his opening remarks.

Forty-two more teams are in the city in a more friendly competition known as the Festival.

Last night at TD Waterhouse Stadium where the six elite teams will play all their games, about 1,000 spectators witnessed the parade of the athletes, their oath-taking, tributes and entertainment.

The teams marched in, the Scots in kilts, Bermuda in Bermuda shorts, the Finns in blazers despite the heat, the South Koreans chanting, the Iroquois Nation in costume and, of course, the red-clad Canadians.

Apart from the oath-taking, the sacred part of the ceremonies was the blessing of the grounds by the First Nations.

Dan Smoke-Asayenes said in an interview that London is the native ground of the Neutral Indians, part of the Iroquois Nation, which is why the Iroquois Nation has a team in the championship group.

"We are doing it a little different," he said. "Here we are welcoming the countries of the world. We have sprinkled the ground with Ionkwaronni (tobacco -- another North American export), which is the leaf of the Creator.

"It's put on the lands to talk to the Creator to bring kindness, honesty and caring to the tournament.

"Lacrosse is a medicine game played for our medicine and for the entertainment of the Creator. It is played for entertainment, mental well-being and physicality."

One of the tournament organizers, Don Mahood, watched as the first event got underway.

"There were a lot of naysayers out there but it's going to be a good tournament," he said.

First lacrosse action begins today at TD Waterhouse Stadium with the Iroquois Nation taking on England at 12:30 p.m.

The U.S. plays Australia at 4 p.m. and Canada plays Japan in the 7:30 p.m. game.


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