Ministers from Canada’s three territories are working to overturn the decision to remove six sports from the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.
Elaine Taylor, Yukon’s minister of sports and recreation, met with her counterparts from Nunavut and the N.W.T. in Fairbanks, Alaska on Wednesday during a meeting of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee.
All three ministers want to see the six sports removed from the 2016 Games put back into the program, and presented various options to make it happen, said Taylor.
“There was the agreement of all parties to move forward, they recognized the concerns put forth by stakeholders, and they certainly appreciated hearing directly from us face to face,” said Taylor. “We’re looking at next April, in order to do the necessary research, to talk to the necessary partners, to facilitate those options going forward.”
The Games committee announced in September that six sports would be cut, due to a lack of sports and hosting facilities. There was no consultation with the non-Greenland jurisdictions represented in the circumpolar sport competition. The six sports are speed skating, figure skating, curling, gymnastics, midget hockey and dog mushing. Nuuk has no ice rink for hockey, figure skating and speed skating, and no gymnastics facility or curling sheets. Greenland also has a law against bringing outside dogs into the country.
“We started to receive a lot of tremendous feedback from the community at large, as did my colleagues in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut,” said Taylor. “Since that time, we’ve been working towards securing a meeting with the international committee for the purpose of discussing the deliberations in regards to the Games in Greenland, and more importantly, to explore the options for the Games committee that will enable our young athletes to participate in the full Winter Games experience in 2016.”
At the forefront of the options presented to the committee was having a satellite venue to host the six sports.
The idea is viable for two reasons. First, Greenland and Iqaluit, Nunavut, co-hosted the Games in 2002.
Second, it is already in the plan for 2016. While midget level hockey has been cut, bantam and female hockey has remained on the program, with the competitions to take place in Iqaluit.
“The reason it’s only some hockey is because all of the athletes have to go to Greenland. Greenland, at its expense, is transporting those athletes to Iqaluit for their parts of the competition and then back to Greenland,” Gerry Thick, president of the Arctic Winter Games’ International Committee, told the News in a recent interview.
But is the presence of every athlete at the opening and closing ceremonies in Nuuk vital to the Games? Wouldn’t athletes prefer to compete in Nunavut, without traveling to Greenland, rather than missing the Games altogether?
Those questions were raised during a recent meeting with Sport Yukon, the territory’s sports governing body, said Taylor.
One option is for athletes to only travel to Iqaluit – or any other city that steps in to co-host – and skip the opening and closing ceremonies.
“Those participants could easily participate in the opening and closing ceremonies by way of video conference,” said Taylor.
Before the ministers and the Games committee reconvene in the spring to discuss the options, there is plenty of research to be done.
Each jurisdiction, their sports organizations and potential satellite host locations must be consulted if a plan is set in place to return the eliminated sports to the 2016 Games.
“What we’re saying is we support Greenland’s sole authority to host, but if it means cutting out a quarter of the sports, that’s not acceptable to our athletes, as has been voiced by our athletes, their organizations and parents and so forth,” said Taylor.
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