The 2022 Arctic Winter Games were scheduled to be held in Wood Buffalo, Alta., in one year’s time but that’s been put on hold for the time being.
The AWG International Committee announced that the next edition of the Games has been postponed and will now be held at a later date. There was no immediate word on when that will be but the committee stated in a press release that the decision was a “planned and proactive response to the global Covid-19 pandemic” and was made in discussions with the Alberta government and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
John Flynn, president of the international committee, stated that the health and safety of participants, coaches and volunteers is of paramount concern and that was the main factor behind the decision.
“Although it is a great disappointment that we must postpone the 2022 Arctic Winter Games, we are steadfast in our decision,” he stated. “The International Committee engaged in an extensive consultative process with both the Wood Buffalo 2022 Host Society and our valued Chefs de Mission from participating units.”
The release also stated that all parties are working together to come up with an appropriate date for a re-scheduled Games and the intention is to announce the date in the near future.
Bill Othmer, the acting executive director of Sport North and acting chef de mission for Team NT, said the issue about 2022 first came up last month when the international committee first floated the idea about whether to cancel the Games as scheduled.
Othmer sent an e-mail to the territorial sport organizations (TSO) on what they thought should be done and give them a chance to provide some input.
“I gave them three options: proceed with the Games as scheduled, postpone the Games to 2023 or cancel them altogether,” he said. “I wanted them to have a say and I sent their responses to the international committee.”
The Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT looks after Dene games and Arctic sports, two of the affected events.
Aaron Wells, the Sports Circle’s executive director, said at the end of the day, it’s all about respecting the decision that was made.
“They didn’t take it lightly because there are plenty of factors involved,” he said. “Of course, we want the athletes to get the chance to compete but it’s important to note that postponement was the key word and so we’re just looking to the future.”
One thing which will certainly come up in any discussion about the future of the Games is age categories. The Canada Summer Games, which was originally slated to happen this year in Ontario, will now happen in 2022 and one of the things organizers did was adjust the ages to ensure that those athletes who would have been competing this year still get the chance to do so next year.
Wells said he knows there is the potential of athletes missing out because of that.
“If they give us a chance to give feedback on that, we’ll obviously ask that no one misses out,” he said. “There wasn’t any news on that in the announcement but they’ll have to make a decision on that. I’m hoping there will be a way to accommodate those kids.”
Curling is another sport which has borne the brunt of cancellations and postponements of AWG past. It was part of the six sports which didn’t get the chance to feature when the Games were held in Greenland in 2016 – along with figure skating, dog mushing, gymnastics, speedskating and U18 boys hockey – and lost out with everyone else in 2020 when the Games were cancelled altogether.
Nick Saturnino, NWT Curling’s president, said there was a genuine fear of curling missing out again.
“We suggested that postponement was the best option and I think that’s a wise decision,” he said.
Another recommendation NWT Curling made was to talk with Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory’s chief public health officer, to get her opinion on what to do, he added.
“She has a good idea as to how things will look one year from now so we felt it would be prudent to have her thoughts,” he said.
The international committee released a document with answers to questions people may have and you can access that by clicking here.