AWG agreement signed

Jane Groenewegen, left, John Rodda, Andrew Cassidy, and Robert Bouchard take part in the signing Wednesday afternoon.

Jane Groenewegen, left, John Rodda, Andrew Cassidy, and Robert Bouchard take part in the signing Wednesday afternoon.

Politicians and delegates gathered at the arbour on the K’atlodeeche First Nation last Wednesday to mark the occasion that will kick off the planning of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games to be hosted in Hay River and Fort Smith.

“We’re looking forward to handing things over to our host society,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy. “There’s a real partnership between the two communities. I encourage you to get to know the members of the host society; they will be calling you.”

The moment came as the culmination of more than a year of planning and work by the bid committee. After the South Slave bid was declared the victor over Inuvik’s in March, all that’s left to do is plan and execute one of the biggest events the community and region has ever seen.

“I commend the Arctic Winter Games international committee on the foresight to change their staging manual to allow for regional bids,” said Greg Rowe, bid committee president. “It’s going to be great, and it’s going to bring it back to its original intent.”

Rowe spoke of the important work that needs to be done now that the agreement has been signed, including getting going on the renovations of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre. He said a revitalized facility was not only necessary to host the games, but would remain as a legacy project for years to come.

“The South Slave is our team and I look forward to working with all of you,” he said.

But there was some tension despite the teamwork. Originally, the event was set to be held at the Chamber Park in Hay River and had to be moved to the reserve when striking municipal workers threatened to picket the signing. Fort Smith Mayor Brad Brake also declined to attend – though he sent his support and well-wishes – because he refused to cross the picket line.

–Sarah Ladik