Greenland shaves Arctic Winter Games

The 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland, will be about five sports short. Dog mushing, curling, gymnastics, speed skating and figure skating have traditionally been a part of the Games' lineup, but will not be held in 2016.

The 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland, will be about five sports short.

Dog mushing, curling, gymnastics, speed skating and figure skating have traditionally been a part of the Games’ lineup, but will not be held in 2016, said Tracey Bilsky, executive director with Sport Yukon.

“Nuuk doesn’t have the facilities to host all of these sports,” she said. “We’re not expecting Greenland to build an arena – something which doesn’t fit into their culture, and after the Games have this facility that isn’t used. But we have seen this work in 2002 and we just want to know why that approach isn’t being investigated this time.”

For the 2002 Games, Greenland co-hosted with Nunavut. Events that needed an arena were held in Iqaluit and athletes were flown back and forth between the opening and closing ceremonies and their events.

That is happening in 2016 as well.

Ice hockey will be held in Iqaluit under a special contract made by Nuuk’s host society, according to the Games’ international committee’s press release.

So if it is being done for one sport, why not others, asked Bilsky.

Even midget hockey is being left out, while other levels of the sport are being accommodated, she said.

And if it is the expense of flying athletes back and forth, why not consider other options, she asked.

In Yellowknife in 2008, there was no alpine skiing because there is no ski hill.

“That’s understandable,” said Bilsky. “However, they were innovative and flexible enough to find somewhere for snowboarders to compete. There was this valley that they created a snowboard venue in.

“We realize that’s an anomaly. However, with anomalies come innovation, innovative thinking and collaborating on what we can do to ensure these athletes have the opportunity to compete. Let’s talk solutions. We were disappointed to see that there weren’t any alternatives presented, that it was just that the sports would be eliminated.”

Gerry Thick, president of the Games’ international committee, couldn’t be reached before press time.

For many athletes that compete in these Games, this is their “marquee” event, said Bilsky.

“It is the competition they most look forward to,” she said.

For many Yukon gymnasts, for example, it is the only competition they have to look forward to, she added.

The Games were, in many respects, created so younger athletes, at more amateur levels, could still have the experience of competition.

Olympian Zach Bell has even lauded the Arctic Winter Games for giving him some of his earliest competition experiences and credits those early days as being a big help in preparing him for his professional athletic career, said Bilsky.

And while the Games won’t be in Nuuk for another four years, there is no time to wait before addressing the removal of these five sports, she said.

“We think that this is quite urgent because this decision will also impact what will happen in 2020, when Nunavut is a single host and there’s no cross-country skiing, for example, in Iqaluit,” said Bilsky. “We’d like to know, from year to year, will other sports be eliminated and will there be any type of consistency for preparation for the Arctic Winter Games or will this competition start to be watered down?”

Plus, the sports that have been excluded from 2016 are already concerned about recruiting and retaining athletes, she added.

Many of them have already appealed to Elaine Taylor, the territory’s minister responsible for sports and recreation, in hopes that this decision can be reversed.

Sport Yukon is doing the same, Bilsky added.

“We’re asking the questions because we haven’t seen the rationale,” she said. “We’re not trying to cause a lot of conflict, but in this case we just need to understand and come to some type of solution.”

The next Games is in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2014. All sports are expected to be held.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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