Unless Whitehorse steps in, there might not be an Arctic Winter Games in 2020, according to the Yukon’s minister of community services.
Minister Currie Dixon and the Arctic Winter Games International Committee have officially asked the city to consider hosting the Games, after Iqaluit pulled out of the job earlier this year.
“If we don’t host in 2020 no other jurisdiction is prepared to,” Dixon said.
“If we don’t host in 2020 the Games probably won’t happen, unless there’s some sort of last-ditch effort by some other organization.”
Every two years young athletes from around the circumpolar north come together to compete in sports ranging from basketball and hockey to traditional Dene games like the knuckle hop.
There are six “permanent partner” teams that are qualified to host the games, according to the Yukon Department of Community Services – Yukon, Alaska, Northwest Territories, Northern Alberta, Greenland and Nunavut. Smaller teams from Russia, northern Quebec and the Sapmi region are considered too small to host.
Alaska hosted in 2014 and Greenland just hosted this year. N.W.T. is hosting in 2018. Northern Alberta is hosting the 2019 Canada Games and couldn’t take the Arctic Winter Games on as well.
That leaves the Yukon.
Whitehorse city council is being asked to consider hosting and start negotiating a contract with the international committee.
The request was brought up at last Monday’s meeting. City administration is recommending council votes yes. That vote will be in two weeks.
Acting city manager Linda Rapp said Iqaluit dropped out of running the games in part because it was only able to host a maximum of nine of the 21 sports.
“The City of Whitehorse has the required infrastructure and is well-positioned to host the Arctic Winter Games,” she said.
“The community has experience hosting significant events and sport leadership and volunteerism remain strong in the community.”
Agreeing to think about hosting still allows time for discussion, Rapp said. That includes working out the finances and figuring out sport selection.
Whitehorse last hosted the Arctic Winter Games in 2012. Those games cost about $4.4 million.
According to a financial report, organizers were able to raise about $5 million from government, business sponsorships, merchandise and tickets.
The $600,000 left over was handed out to Yukon arts and sports organizations in the two years after the games ended.
Rapp said the City anticipates contributing about $250,000 cash and $250,000 in kind to the 2020 Games if they happen in Whitehorse.
In 2012 the federal government contributed just over $1 million and the territorial government came in with $1.7 million. The City’s contribution that year is listed as $400,000.
Dixon is in favour of Whitehorse hosting the games.
“I think the Arctic Winter Games are fantastic and I think it would be a shame if they didn’t occur,” he said.
“I think Whitehorse and Yukon are very good at hosting these type of games. We have the volunteers, we have the infrastructure, we have the sports governing bodies that are well established to host these type of games.”
The department sent out a survey to all 29 sport governing bodies in the territory asking if they were in favour of hosting the games. Ninety per cent said yes.
George Arcand is president of Sport Yukon and was also president of the 2012 Arctic Winter Games.
“It was a totally positive experience for all the kids involved (in 2012) and certainly from an economic standpoint it doesn’t hurt the city because it brings a lot of business to the city.”
If Whitehorse agrees to move forward, a hosting committee will have to be formed to start organizing, Dixon said. The 2012 Games included about 2,000 volunteers.
“It will be a lot of work and we’ll have to rally our volunteer community as we always do but I’m confident that the Arctic Winter Games will be well received by Yukoners, especially in the sports community.”
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