Milestone marked for Arctic Winter Games

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
On March 18, the clock on the outside of the swimming pool began to count down the 365 days to the opening of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in the South Slave.

The president of the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games is saying he’s glad to see his hopes realized on a recent check-up on preparations for the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns about the finish date for the recreation centre currently in construction.

The 12-member International Committee of the AWG, along with some chefs de mission of participating teams, were in Hay River on March 18 and 19, followed by a visit to Fort Smith, to view venues and accommodations.

At the beginning of the visit on March 18, Jens Brinch, president of the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games, was asked by The Hub what he hoped to see during the visit.

“We hope to see a lot of dedicated people, a lot of volunteers that have been found,” he said. “We hope to see some facilities that have been developed a little more than the last time we were here. But it looks very good. There are a lot of nice people here. I’m sure that the whole society seems to be behind this project, and at the end of the day that is the most important thing.”

One of the biggest changes since the international committee was last here in September is that the new Don Stewart Recreation Centre is now partially built.

“It’s very impressive, but the only worry that I have is it’s going to be finished very late compared with the games starting in March,” said Brinch. “I hope that it will be ready as planned so they can try if it’s working before the games.”

The international president said that if the rec centre is completed around Christmas, there will still need to be a hockey tournament and a volleyball tournament held to see if everything is working properly.

“But I think it’s very impressive and it looks to be a very fine facility and a very fine legacy for the Arctic Winter Games, because I think this has been built because of the Arctic Winter Games,” he said. “So we can be very proud that we are a part of that.”

Among the visiting chefs de mission was Yellowknife’s Doug Rentmeister of Team NWT.

“We have a pretty good understanding of what’s here to offer,” he said. “But for the most part, we want to be able to provide some insight and some guidance for the chairs moving forward so that they’re not surprised or sideswiped by a thing occurring later on in this process.”

Rentmeister was impressed by the amount of detail that each of the chairs in the host society put forward during the first meeting of the visit on March 18.

“They’re well ahead,” he said. “You can tell that there’s a lot of experience in the games.”

Rentmeister said the chefs de mission will take a lot of information back on the venues and any issues they see to let their coaches and mission staff know what to expect when they come to the South Slave.

Brinch said the visiting delegation consisted of about 20 people, including chefs de mission from the nine contingents from five countries.

“They’re really the ones that have been through this many, many years, dealt with numerous host societies,” said Greg Rowe, president of the host society for the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games, prior to the beginning of the tour, noting they would drill down into the details of the plan and how the organizers propose to do everything. “We’re prepared for that.”

Rowe said organizers also hoped to lean on the experience of the visitors and work closely with them.

The host society was hoping to use the visit to have the international committee weigh the option of having two opening ceremonies in Hay River and Fort Smith, instead of just one in Hay River.

“We really want the whole international committee and the chefs de mission all to experience the bus ride,” said Rowe of the trip from Hay River to Fort Smith.

If there is one opening ceremony in Hay River, athletes who had already arrived in Fort Smith would be bussed three hours to Hay River, where they would probably have to wait another hour for the ceremony to start, sit through the event for an hour, and then be bussed back.

Rowe said the host society wants the international committee to have a clear understanding of that travel, and that the best care and comfort of the athletes may not be in bussing them all the way to Fort Smith, having them just get settled and bussing them to Hay River and back.

“We want the ability to re-look at that,” he said.

On March 18, before taking that bus ride, Brinch was asked about two opening ceremonies instead of one.

“We have that in the contract because, if we want to make this an event for the participants and for the media, I think it’s very important that we have one opening ceremony,” he said.

Government support for the games should allow organizers to solve that kind of problem, Brinch added. “So I think you better go for it and find out how to do that.”

The next visit by the international committee and chefs de mission will be in September, six months out from the games.

–Paul Bickford