Hay River and Fort Smith have won the right to co-host the 2018 Arctic Winter Games prompting a series of cheers from those present when the news spread March 18.
Arctic Winter Games International Committee made its decision known in a telephone call to the mayors of the two host communities and Inuvik, which also bid for the games.
In Hay River, Greg Rowe, chair of the South Slave bid committee, then received a call from Mayor Andrew Cassidy and shared the news with about 30 bid supporters gathered at the Chief Lamalice Complex on the Hay River Reserve.
“I’ve just got the confidence in the work that we’ve done, the bid that we prepared, the visit that we showed, that we were the place to host it,” Rowe told the cheering bid supporters.
As he was speaking, Cassidy walked into the gathering to more cheers and high-fives, and both took to a small stage to thank supporters and talk about what the winning bid means for Hay River and the South Slave.
“It really is an opportunity for us to showcase the small communities, and we’ve got a big job ahead of us,” said Rowe.
Cassidy thanked Rowe and his team for their efforts.
“It wouldn’t have happened without everybody,” said the mayor, who also recognized the involvement of Fort Smith. “Because this is an event that is so big that it takes two communities now. It was hard work to get here and the work just got a lot harder.”
Cassidy described the successful bid as part of a non-political, grassroots movement.
Rowe empathized with Inuvik’s loss.
“We know the hardship of not winning,” he said, referring to the South Slave’s failed attempt to win the 2008 AWG. “They’re going to come back and they’ll learn from it certainly, as we did.”
Rowe said the South Slave is now tasked with putting on the best games possible, and showing that smaller communities can host the games and make them very successful.
Hay River previously co-hosted the AWG in 1978 with Pine Point.
In comments to The Hub following the announcement, Cassidy said a site tour by an AWG delegation in January demonstrated Hay River and Fort Smith have more than the capacity to host.
“We showed the facilities,” he said. “We showed the community spirit. We showed the business support and the political support, and I think what won it was the complete package. The games committee was very comfortable when they were talking to us about awarding the bid to us.”
As for what now may need to be done to enhance sports infrastructure, Cassidy said that has to happen regardless of the AWG.
“We’ve got what it takes,” he said. “So anything new, anything that needs to be added to or enhanced, it’s not going to be games-driven.”
John Rodda, vice-president of the AWG International Committee, was chair of the organization’s bid review, and led a five-person delegation for site visits to Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik in January.
The AWG official acknowledged the “tremendous” amount of work by both bid committees, saying they should be extremely proud.
Rodda, who is from Anchorage, Alaska, said the South Slave learned from its previous unsuccessful bid for the games.
“I know what it’s like to bid against other individual communities or joint communities, and you’re not always successful the first go-round,” he said. “But what you learn from that endeavour is, ‘OK, we need to this a little better or that a little better.'”
Rodda said the South Slave bid demonstrated the “overall depth and abilities” to produce the 2018 games most successfully, and it possibly had an edge in sports depth, meaning people already associated and committed to the games.
However, he stressed the decision was made by balancing the two bids as a whole, and not on individual factors.
“There’s a whole host of things that really gets into the final decision, and this is nothing taking away from Inuvik, at all,” he said. “But that balance of depth and abilities the South Slave bid had, that strength, was slightly better, and we felt would produce the most successful games hosted by the NWT in 2018.”
The decision was voted on by the whole international committee but the vote numbers are not released.
Rodda said work will now start on a contract for the 2018 games.
“I would like to get that done by the end of April,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
The contract will be between the Town of Hay River and the Arctic Winter Games International Committee. After the contract is finalized, a formal signing ceremony will be scheduled.
Cassidy said the next step would then be establishing a host society.
The mayor also said there is currently an informal agreement on responsibilities and venues between Hay River and Fort Smith.
“We need to formalize that. Once we have that agreement in place, that will give us a better idea of the structure of our host committee,” he said. “Our informal agreement is we’re 50/50 partners on this, so they’ll have 50 per cent participation in the host society, as well. So we are complete partners in this whole process.”