Arctic Winter Games gets checkup

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Jens Brinch, the president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, stands near the construction site for Hay River's new recreation centre, which is expected to be completed in time for the 2018 games.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Jens Brinch, the president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, stands near the construction site for Hay River’s new recreation centre, which is expected to be completed in time for the 2018 games.

The Arctic Winter Games (AWG) International Committee made its first visit last week to the South Slave to check on preparations for the 2018 edition of the games.

“It was to meet the host society and find out how far along they were in the planning of the Arctic Winter Games and to give them some advice and assistance,” said Greenland’s Jens Brinch, president of the committee. “And ask all the questions that we know that we have to ask because we have some experience in what the issues might be.”

Brinch told The Hub the visit was a very good process, both in Hay River and Fort Smith, which will co-host the games.

“We’ve seen all the facilities that are used for the sports,” he said on Sept. 15. “We have discussed all the problems that might occur and we have told them that there’s some things they might speed up. We’ll be back again in March. And at that time we expect that they’ll have gone even further in the planning of the games.”

The international committee is comprised of 12 members representing six of the contingents that participate in the AWG – the NWT, Nunavut, Yukon, Alaska, northern Alberta and Greenland.

Ten members of the committee made the trip to the South Slave.

It was Brinch’s first time in the region.

When the international committee president was asked for his impressions of the South Slave, he replied, “I think we met a lot of nice people, very dedicated people that will work hard to get the Arctic Winter Games a success. You have a lot of good facilities but you also have some facilities that you have to improve a little up to the standard that we expect it to be.”

For example, he mentioned some showers and dressing rooms need to be upgraded without pointing at any one facility in particular.

“Because there’ll be a lot of people here,” he said. “So you’ll need to put in showers. You’ll need to expand your dressing rooms. You’ll need to have drying facilities for the hockey equipment.”

While noting most athletes will sleep in schools, Brinch wondered about accommodations for others.

“There might be a problem with all the guests coming in here,” he said. “Because the hotel capacity is not that big. So it will be crowded. I hope maybe there’ll be a lot of homes that will have some bed-and-breakfasts.”

Brinch also sees a challenge in transportation between Hay River and Fort Smith.

“This is a special games because we’ve never had this kind of a double hosting,” he said, noting that the previous games shared by Iqaluit and Nuuk, Greenland, were not similar because they were in different countries and had two opening ceremonies.

There are a lot of details for the South Slave organizers to plan completely, said Brinch. “But they will.”

As for the new rec centre being built in Hay River, he said, “That is one of the goals of the Arctic Winter Games to create better sports facilities, because every time a community is hosting they’re building something new or doing something to make better facilities. So this is great for us to see that.”

The international committee arrived on Sept. 11 and departed on Sept. 16.

“The important thing for us was to meet people, to meet some volunteers, and feel that they were dedicated and feel that the society is behind this,” said Brinch.

Plus, he wanted to see the level of co-operation between Hay River and Fort Smith, and had meetings with both mayors.

“They were very enthusiastic about the games,” he said. “I think they see these Arctic Winter Games as a way of having better co-operation in the future.”

Mayor Brad Mapes said the whole idea of the visit was to show that the two communities are ready to get going.

“I’m not going to say that there’s not going to be some challenges to get over and figure out financially where we’re at and making sure that we’re keeping within budget, and that’s something that’s got to be addressed in the coming months,” Mapes told The Hub.

“We can make things happen,” he said. “You got to put our heads together and make sure things are going in the right direction.”

Greg Rowe, president of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games Host Society, was pleased to welcome the international committee.

“The meetings gave us the opportunity to showcase our facilities, our communities and our amazing volunteers and explain, in detail to the international committee members, our plans for hosting the games,” Rowe stated in a news release.

Since March 2015 when it was announced the South Slave had won the 2018 games, the host society has been reviewing and revising its bid submission for presentation to the international committee during its visit.

“Of course, we have lots more work ahead of us but the initial response by the international committee from our meetings was very positive and confirmed that we are on the right path,” stated Rowe.

As a result of the recent visit, the international committee will be sending the host society a letter with its recommendations.

Hay River previously co-hosted the AWG with Pine Point in 1978.