By Clint Buehler
GRANDE PRAIRIE, AB – There was hockey and curling, skating and skiing here, but it wasn’t the 2010 Winter Olympics or Paralympics.
And there were a number of sports that were never seen this winter at venues at Vancouver, Whistler and Richmond. There were the Arctic sports: one-foot high kick, two-foot high kick, Alaska high kick, kneel jump, airplane, one-hand reach, head pull, knuckle hop, sledge jump, triple jump and arm pull; Dene games: finger pull, hand games, snow snake, stick pull and pull push; and indoor competitions: badminton, basketball, gymnastics, indoor soccer, table tennis, volleyball and wrestling, as well as biathlon, dog mushing and snowshoeing.
And there was also a solid cultural component with a wide diversity of traditional and contemporary performers.
More than 2,000 athletes, coaches and cultural participants from the northern hemisphere had gathered here for the 21st annual Arctic Winter Games, March 6 – 13.
Participants from Nunavut, Greenland, Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavik, Sammi, and Yamal-Nenets competed against Team Alberta North athletes in 20 sports. These international Games provide northern-based athletes with their own version of the ‘Winter Olympics’ with a variety of different events.
The Arctic Winter Games is a high profile circumpolar sport competition for northern and Arctic athletes. The Games provide an opportunity to strengthen sport development in the participants’ jurisdictions, to promote the benefits of sport, to build partnerships, and to promote culture and values. The Games celebrate sport, social exchange and cultures. The Games provide an opportunity for the developing athlete to compete in friendly competition while sharing cultural values from northern regions around the world.
The Arctic Winter Games were founded in 1969 under the leadership of Governor Walter J. Hickel of Alaska, Stuart M. Hodgson, Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, and Yukon Commissioner James Smith. The idea to “provide a forum where athletes from the circumpolar North could compete on their own terms, on their own turf” came from Cal Miller, an advisor with the Yukon team at the 1967 Canada Winter Games.
In 1970 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories 500 athletes, trainers and officials came together for the first Arctic Winter Games. The participants came from the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska. Since then, the Games have been held on fifteen occasions in different places and with ever more participants from more and more places within the Arctic region. The games in 2002 were the first jointly hosted Arctic Winter Games, by Nuuk, Greenland and Iqaluit, Nunavut.
The 2010 Arctic Winter Games came to Grande Prairie for the first time and mark the third time Alberta has hosted the Games. Slave Lake hosted the 1994 Arctic Winter Games, and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo held the Games in 2004. Team Alberta North has competed in the Arctic Winter Games since 1986. The 2010 Arctic Winter Games are made possible with the assistance of dozens of corporate sponsors, host municipalities and the Government of Alberta.
With over 2,500 people registered to volunteer for the 2010 Arctic Winter Games the Grande Prairie Host Society met its volunteer recruitment goal.