Whitehorse loses grip on Junior Worlds

The Whitehorse host society for the 2008 Junior World Weightlifting Championships announced Wednesday that Whitehorse will not host the event, which…

The Whitehorse host society for the 2008 Junior World Weightlifting Championships announced Wednesday that Whitehorse will not host the event, which was scheduled for next June.

The host society decided to release the event because negotiations with the International Weightlifting Federation were becoming suspect.

Whitehorse was awarded the bid to host the Junior Worlds two years ago, but recently the IWF began to deviate from the original bid terms.

“We were feeling that the international organization didn’t support the event here,” said Tamara Goeppel, CEO of the host society. “They were being pressured to make a change — you could feel that. We underestimated the power of other interests.”

Two weeks ago, the IWF sent a host agreement to the Whitehorse host society, demanding a 30-day withdrawal clause, which would allow the IWF to pull the event anytime up to a month before competition.

Any arbitration would take place in Switzerland.

They also wanted a reduced participant cost, from $140 per day to $100. That meant the host society would end up paying more out of it’s own pockets to run the event.

The Yukon group countered with a 120-day withdrawal clause, with arbitration in the Yukon.

The IWF denied the proposal.

Additionally, the IWF wouldn’t accept the results of hotel and facilities inspections.

“Even if we satisfied them, new things would come up — the goalposts kept moving,” said Goeppel. “If we continued to drive the host society down that road, we would probably make some bad decisions.”

They decided to release the event rather than continue to bend over backwards meeting increasing demands.

“Although the additional costs would not have been insurmountable, the Host Society felt it could not accept, in good faith, the considerable changes implied by the IWF so late in the planning process,” the host society said in a news release.

 “If you told me a month ago that we’d release this event, I would say you’re on crack,” said Goeppel. She added that although Whitehorse is fully capable of hosting international sporting events, the host society may have lacked a certain experience in the wheeling and dealing side of things.

“We can’t take our small-town values to that level — based on a handshake,” said Goeppel.

 The IMF has more than 200 member countries, and the sport is almost invisible in North America, which was a strike against Whitehorse from the beginning.

With the Beijing Olympics right on the heels of the Junior Worlds, there may have been pressure on the IMF to move the event to a closer venue in Asia.

“We need to be more savvy — we decided to go after a big event, an Olympic sport in an Olympic year — the politics are real.

“We need a team member that understands the politics of international sport. It does come across as a bully tactic… We don’t know what going on, there’s secrecy, we’d never have won the bid if we weren’t qualified to host it.”

The new host city for the event has not been announced yet.

“No regrets, it’s opened my eyes,” said Goeppel. “You should know the field you’re playing in — it’s not Disneyland.”