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The “other other” games big success in the north

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By Sam Laskaris, Sweetgrass Writer, GRANDE PRAIRIE







The Olympics and Paralympics were not the only successful multi-sport games held in western Canada this winter. Another event that received rave reviews was the Arctic Winter Games, which ran Mar. 6-13 in Grande Prairie. The AWG, which are held every two years, featured about 2,000 athletes competing in 21 sports. The participants represented nine regions from the circumpolar north world. “Things went amazingly well,” said Debbie Reid, the president of the AWG’s host society. “People in Grande Prairie opened their hearts and welcome mats to the point that many people came up to me and said they didn’t want to go home.” Team Alaska placed first in the overall standings capturing 251 medals, including 87 gold. Alberta North finished second with 145 medals while the Northwest Territories squad won 107 medals. The other participating teams were Yukon, Russia’s Yamal-Nenets, Greenland, Nunavut, Nunavik from Quebec, and Saami, which was comprised of athletes from the Scandinavian countries. “Every one of the chefs (de mission) came forward and told us their teams had the time of their life,” Reid said. “That was our goal.” Reid added the event exceeded her own expectations and her pride level went through the roof. “People came through and I was run over by emotion throughout the week,” she said. The AWG would not have been successful if not for the 2,500 registered volunteers. “They did a phenomenal job,” Reid said. Reid added Games’ organizers were concerned beforehand about what sort of reception the AWG would receive as they were held one week after the Olympics in British Columbia. The thinking was some people might have had their fill of sports with Olympic coverage. But that proved not to be the case. “That did not hinder us,” Reid said of the fact the Olympics had just wrapped up. “In fact, it turned out to be a positive thing.” About 150 media members showed up to cover the AWG, including several from overseas. “We do believe that’s because they were in the area (covering the Olympics beforehand),” Reid said. Another pre-AWG concern also turned out to be unwarranted. “The weather gave us a scare,” said Reid, adding there was a stretch of days where the temperature was 5-6 degrees Celsius. “The sun was out heavily the week before the Games.” Despite the warm spell and the fact some snow melted, there was still enough snow in Grande Prairie to stage all of the events as planned. “In the end the competitions were not harmed,” Reid said. The AWG featured plenty of winter sports such as hockey, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowboarding and snowshoeing. But there were also several indoor sports, including basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and badminton, that are not necessarily played just in the winter months. For the first time since the AWG’s inception in 1970, a new sport was added. Freestyle skiing made its successful debut. The next AWG will be staged in 2012 in Whitehorse.