Nations won, friends made and badges exchanged: The 2023 Arctic Winter Games, held in Wood Buffalo, Alta, concluded on Saturday with a ceremony at Fort McMurray, Alta.
John Rodda, chairman of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee (AWGIC), said the event, which kicked off on January 29, was “incredible” except that it was a little chilly.
“The games are going on, we’re all here for the same purpose, and it’s for everyone’s enjoyment,” he told CBC News.
Rodda said the cold weather has led to the cancellation of several events, but thankfully an air day is scheduled to make up for it.
Elder Alice Martin of the Mikisew Crew First Nation said the closing prayer. Then it continued with dance performance and music.
“It’s been a great Games for us,” said Mariele dePeuter, Nunavut’s mission chief.
DePeuter said he wasn’t sure what to expect after the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged sports activities. Now he’s excited to take home 49 medals, including Friday night’s gold in hockey, which he calls “an invaluable experience.”
“Nunavut was full of fans,” he said. “Nunavut has such a great support system, so many parents came here from Nunavut to cheer up their kids.”
DePeuter said some of the best memories will come from off-court experiences, such as Fair Play badges handed out to people who demonstrate sportsmanship.
“Every athlete should be proud of themselves for bringing them here to the games. Being a part of Team Nunavut is an achievement in itself.”
Northwest Territories mission chief Bill Othmer admits his team is off to a rough start. The athletes’ village is about 40 minutes outside of most sports grounds and the athletes were arriving late for everything. Fortunately, the host community addressed this issue in a day or two by adding special buses for the team.
As for highlights, Othmer pointed to wins at Arctic Sports – with a special nod to Chris Stipdonk and his knuckle jump and Veronica MacDonald.
“They are great role models. You see them working with young athletes. This sport is in great shape for the future.”
Meanwhile, AWGIC president Rodda said he was relieved that they could finally hold the games, but that relief would be short-lived. Due to the five-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the next event will be held in Alaska in 2024.
Rodda said it was once again confirmed that no representatives from Russia would attend due to its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The situation means that the location for the 2026 games is in the air, as the event is originally scheduled to be held in Russia.
The NWT government has asked the city of Yellowknife to host the games, but Rodda said he doesn’t expect a final response on the matter, likely in a month to six weeks.
“Otherwise, we will have to meet again,” he said.