Arctic Winter Games hosting bid process begins in earnest

Greg Rowe stands with the ulu his hockey team won at the Whitehorse games. He hopes to bring the games back to Hay River for 2018. Photo by Sarah Ladik NNSL

Greg Rowe stands with the ulu his hockey team won at the Whitehorse games. He hopes to bring the games back to Hay River for 2018.
Photo by Sarah Ladik
NNSL

The bid process for the South Slave to host the 2018 Arctic Winter Games is underway and organizers are looking to beef up their ranks of volunteers.

“We don’t want to be closing any doors,” said Greg Rowe, chair of the bid committee. “It’s not an exclusive group by any means.”

The effort involves putting together a package for the International Committee meant to convince the members that Hay River and Fort Smith can not only host the international event, but do so successfully.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” said Rowe, of the Games. “But this is where you start building your team – there’s room for everyone.”

The Arctic Winter Games typically bring thousands of athletes, their coaches, and supporters to a given community, and while Hay River hosted the games with Pine Point in 1978, the nature of the growing event has locked it in the larger centers where services and venues are more readily available. The Hub reported earlier this year that word had come from the International Committee that the Games would be held in the NWT in 2018, but could not be held in Yellowknife as a result of the city’s bid for the Canada Winter Games, set for 2023. Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta, plus the South Slave are the two contenders for the event.

Rowe likes the South Slave’s chances a lot more now that its bid isn’t up against the capital’s as it was in 2008, but even so, he said the committee remembered the feeling of excitement from that bid.

“When we had the last (International Committee) visit we had the arena packed,” he said. “The ice was full of kids skating, the stands were full, it was just surreal.”

He said he hopes to be able to rekindle some of that enthusiasm in the region, citing games he has attended in bigger centres where – while important events – the games didn’t draw in the entire city.

Shelley Maher, executive director for the bid process this time around, agreed that the bid and the potential eventual Games would have to be a community effort.

“It’s not a question of wanting everyone to be involved,” she said laughing. “We need everyone, really.”

She explained that while not all residents have the time and inclination to head their own committees, there are a multitude of ways to be involved whether it’s businesses writing letters of support for the bid or people showing up to volunteer at the last minute in the event that the bid is successful.

“I’m really excited to see the sports committees’ chairs step forward to start the process right away,” said Maher. “There’s a real opportunity to see sports grow and attract participants and volunteers through this process. It just takes someone to step forward.”

But it’s not all about taking the lead. Maher explained that there are levels of engagement and that she hopes people in both Hay River and Fort Smith will rally to contribute what they can in terms of time and donations.

“We’re going to be aiming for about 1,500 volunteers spread over the two communities,” she said. “That means we’re going to be digging pretty deep to get people out and involved in the excitement … this has to be a community and group effort to make it work here.”

The formal announcement of the award of the bid is expected this fall.

-Sarah Ladik