In 1908, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s), a local militia infantry regiment, which was originally named the 91st Canadian Highlanders, organized and operated the first indoor games. A committee of the Regiment, the 91st Highlanders Athletic Association was formed with its mandate being the organization and operation of the indoor meet. (When the Regiment changed its name in the 1920s, the Athletic Association did not.) The meet has been held every year since 1908, excepting the war years – making this the oldest continually operating indoor track and field meet in North America.
As years progressed, more and more international athletes competed. In 1925, the banked track was built to accommodate the appearance of Paavo Nurmi, the world’s premier track athlete of the day. In 1986, the meet was moved to the new Copps Coliseum – now First Ontario Centre – from James Street Armoury.
After moving from the Armoury, the Hamilton Indoor Games became one of only two international indoor track and field meets in Canada.
In 1989, the International Amateur Athletics Federation implemented a system by which the top ten indoor track and field meets around the world were given IAAF permit status. Our meet was immediately included on this prestigious circuit with other world class meets in such cities as: Osaka, Stuttgart, Stockholm, New York, Los Angeles, Budapest, San Sebastian, Genoa, and Birmingham. Although this circuit is no longer in existence, that designation is an indication of the high regard afforded our meet in international areas. Incidentally, 1991 marked the return of Ben Johnson to competition. That year every seat in the arena was sold and over 400 media representatives from all parts of the world attended.
Perhaps more important is the fact that our meet has been highly regarded by the athletes. Indeed, a list of past competitors reads like a “who’s who” of the sport: Dan O’Brien, Michael Smith, Jackie Joyner-Kersey, Merlene Ottey, Milt Ottey, Eamonn Coghlan, John Walker, the entire gold medal 4X100m relay team from the 1996 Olympic Games (Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert, Bruny Surin, Donovan Bailey), Marcus O’Sullivan, Ben Johnson, Dwight Stones, Charmaine Crooks, Nouredine Marcelli, and; to stretch the memory, Bill Crothers, Bruce Kidd, Abby Hoffman, Laszlo Tabori, Bob Mathias, Percy Williams, Myrtle Cook, Ernestine Russell, Ethel Catherwood, Mary MacDonald, Jesse Owens, Gil Dodds, Mal Whitfield, Phil Edwards, Stella Walsh, Herb McKenley, and Willie Davenport, to name a few.
Our 145 metre, 4 lane track has been constructed to fit within the confines of the ice surface at First Ontario Centre. Today’s elite athletes are accustomed to 200 metre, 6 lane tracks when competing indoors – tracks that were quite rare when our track was built. Consequently, our competitions now are limited to police, elementary and high school athletes. We will return to hosting elite competitors when the 200 metre, 6 lane track is built in Hamilton.
This new meet format has enjoyed modest success, excepting 1991, when it was extremely successful. There are two days of competition featuring 1500 elementary and secondary school athletes from Southern Ontario. Many of these athletes come from schools in the Hamilton, Burlington, Niagara area. The first day’s competition will comprise secondary school athletes, with some police races while the second day will include the elementary school competitors.
For only the second time in its’ history, due to the Global Pandemic COVID-19, the Indoor meet was cancelled for 2021 and 2022.
We are happy to return in 2023!