Lighting a flame for the 2012 Arctic Games

A contract to host the 2012 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse caused a ruckus in council chambers this week. Whitehorse won the bid, and that might make it a financial loser, say councillors Florence Roberts and Doug Graham.

A contract to host the 2012 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse caused a ruckus in council chambers this week.

Whitehorse won the bid, and that might make it a financial loser, say councillors Florence Roberts and Doug Graham.

Both are concerned about the city’s ability to fund the event for a fourth time.

“Is there a budget prepared and do we have a financial commitment yet from YTG?”

Roberts asked Linda Rapp, director of parks and recreation.

“I’m edgy about committing to funding until I see dollars and cents.”

The city was advised by the Arctic Winter Games International Committee on May 8 that it won the right to host the Games.

The city was pushed into hosting the event, said Graham.

“The city only did it (put the bid forward) because it was pressured into it by the Yukon government,” said an exasperated Graham.

“If donations and funding come from other levels of government then we’ll be OK. But I don’t see the city getting the same kind of funding as it did for the Canada Games.”

Now, with the finances still to be pinned down, Graham is nervous.

“We should just say we’re not interested and let the Yukon government do it,” said Graham. “We can rent out our facilities to them.”

Last fall, Graham received a great deal of flak from other councillors and Arctic Winter Games International Committee president Gerry Thick after he challenged Whitehorse’s decision to host the 2012 Games.

Whitehorse last hosted the event in 2000. That year, it cost Whitehorse $400,000 and the territory chipped in an additional $750,000.

This time around, the Games are expected to cost the city almost $2 million to host.

“We set aside $50,000 in last year’s budget

for the bid,” said Graham.

“But when things got tight in the budget that money disappeared. My guess is we won’t have the money again this year to set aside (for the Games).”

If Mayor Bev Buckway formally signs the contract at next week’s council meeting, the city will be immediately tasked with assembling a “host society.”

The host society will formally oversee Games planning.

“There are some fairly tight timelines in place to ensure adequate planning time including the hiring of key staff by fall of 2009,” said Rapp.

This will be the 22nd winter games. If the contract is signed, the event will take place in March 2012.