A number of Yukon coaches and athletes are reacting positively to the possibility of the City of Whitehorse hosting the 2026 Arctic Winter Games.
On July 10, the City of Whitehorse voted in favour of hosting the Games, contingent on $4 million in funding and in-kind from the Yukon government. The city has set a deadline of July 28 for the territory to commit to the Games.
The 2026 Games were initially supposed to be hosted in Yamal, Russia. However, Russia was later suspended by the Arctic Winter Games International Committee (AWGIC) following the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Table Tennis Yukon president Kevin Murphy pointed to Whitehorse’s background in hosting major sporting events.
“This city has a rich history of stepping up and hosting games like the AWG,” he said.
Murphy said he approves of Whitehorse hosting the 2026 Games, given the cancellation of the 2020 Games. Whitehorse had been set to host that year, but the Games were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The News asked Murphy what hosting the 2026 AWG in Whitehorse would mean for sports and talent development in the territory.
He said performing in front of the home crowd, parents and friends should be a big plus in bringing athletes out to earn spots in their sport or cultural activity for the Games.
“Hopefully for us in table tennis, (it would mean) more players to work with heading into the Games,” he said.
On the economic, social and cultural benefits of hosting the AWG in the territory, Murphy said Whitehorse is the right size of community to host, from the point of view of citizen engagement and First Nation involvement.
“The Games will cost money, but the benefits to the community and its residents can’t always be measured in dollars,” he said. “It’s in the community pride, self-esteem and other intangibles, which contribute to a healthy community on many levels.”
Murphy is optimistic and said he doesn’t see any major challenge the city may face in hosting the 2026 AWG.
“I’d like to think that the athletes, coaches, officials, sports chairs and volunteers who were frustrated by the 2020 cancellation will be eager to ‘finish the job’ and do Whitehorse proud,” he said.
Despite squash not being one of the sports at the AWG, Squash Yukon coaches and athletes are supportive of the Games coming to town.
Coach Gyanendra Singh said the hosting opportunity will be good for the development of sports in the territory.
“There will be opportunities for Yukon athletes to participate and showcase their talents,” he said. “It will be a big exposure for kids looking forward to participating in the Games in the future.”
Rannon Johnson, a Yukon squash player, told the News that hosting the Games in the territory would be great because many athletes would participate.
Sandy Nagrajan, who competed for Team Yukon in squash at the Canada Winter Games in February, said it will be a “fantastic opportunity for us as a community, and athletes will be happy that it is happening in their hometown.”
Nagrajan said it would help boost the economy and bring tourists to the territory to immerse themselves in local culture and entertainment.
Contact Patrick Egwu at email@example.com