Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

GETTING INVOLVED – Arctic Winter Games International Committee members and Mission Staff try out Hand Games during a break in the M2 meetings on Wednesday at the AWG offices.

AWG International Committee, representatives visit for M2 meetings

The 2020 Arctic Winter Games International and representatives from all nine contingents were in Whitehorse this week for the Mission 2 (M2) meetings, held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

By John Tonin on October 10, 2019

The 2020 Arctic Winter Games International and representatives from all nine contingents were in Whitehorse this week for the Mission 2 (M2) meetings, held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In March, the Mission 1 meetings were held, and representatives from the contingents toured the facilities and made recommendations and raised questions for the 2020 Host Society to work on leading into M2.

"In M1, they come in and it's more big picture," said 2020 AWG general manager Moira Lassen. "M2, it's more nutted out with detail and when it comes to Games time, it's all detail."

There will be 14 venues used across the city, and 21 sports will be played.

John Rodda is part of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee and a representative of the Alaskan delegation.

The last Games were held in Hay River and Fort Smith, N.W.T., and it was the first time they were hosted there. Whitehorse last hosted the AWG in 2012, and has other experience hosting national Games.

"There is so much depth," said Rodda, "because of the people who have lived here and been associated with the Games or other Games. They are not lacking from the standpoint of having to recreate the wheel.

"Yes, every Games are different and you do things differently because times change, but as opposed to Hay River or Fort Smith (N.W.T.) who had never hosted that was a far bigger challenge."

During the M1 facilities tour, Rodda said there weren't many large recommendations for improvement.

"Really, nothing too drastic," said Rodda. "You take a look at the venues. We know the venues exist. They made a couple of changes; F.H. Collins doesn't look like the school it was before. It's now a small facility. We have to do some adapting to that.

"Initial plans see it as it was as opposed to what it's going to be. It's smaller, therefore we have to massage other pieces like the accommodations and the sport allocations."

At the end of M2, the Chefs for each delegation had the opportunity to again make recommendations and ask questions.

"We'll do a wrap-up this afternoon," said Rodda. "At the end of each set of meetings it unveils, if you will, the strong points or not necessarily a weak point, but more detail.

"The Chefs pick up on a lot of those things because they have to go back and finalize their plans, whether it's charters, sports selection, sport schedule, it can be whatever it is. They want as much detail as possible before they leave here."

Rodda said the Chefs are looking for as many details as possible to ensure that once the athletes arrive they have a positive experience and can focus on their competition.

Another important aspect of the M2 meetings was for the contingents to learn of the Host Society's contingency plans if something were to go wrong. Rodda used weather as an example.

"Weather is so goofy in March," said Rodda. "What happens if we get to March and it starts raining? That could be a no-snow condition. So what's the plan for all the snow-related events? Can they still go on?

"Are we going to stockpile snow? Are we going to make snow? Will you be able to groom it? You have to shift how events are planned. It maybe doesn't sound like a big deal but all the things you could say, take for granted, you can't take for granted."

"You need contingency for contingency and you need to monitor the risks," said Lassen. "If there is no snow, what do we do? If the buses break down, what do we do? It's all about contingency and risk management."

Rodda said he can feel the excitement building for the Games amongst his and every other delegation.

"That's the difference between M1, where you are starting, and here we are five months away from the Games and you can see the excitement in people," said Rodda. "You talk to people on the street and it's becoming more elevated."

In his home state, those involved in any level of the Games are getting excited.

"People are starting to get anxious," said Rodda. "It's not here yet but it's getting here and it goes fast."

There is no M3 meeting; the next time the contingents will be in Whitehorse will be right before the Games, and Rodda believes Whitehorse will put on a great event.

"I'm really impressed with the work they've done," said Rodda. "Whitehorse has such depth, and the resources and venues are in place."

Aviaaja Geisler, the assistant Chef de Mission for Greenland, was in Whitehorse for the M1 meetings and again for M2. Geisler said she is happy with the progress made between the two meetings.

"I'm very optimistic, and I like the progress," said Geisler. "I'm very positive on the things they've been working on from M1 to M2. We don't have any worries from team Greenland."

During the M1 meetings, Geisler, said Greenland, did not make any recommendations to the Host Society. She said at M2 it is about shoring up the details for the Greenland delegation.

In Greenland, Geisler said, the excitement is growing amongst all involved and that they will be competing in some new sports.

"We have some new sports we are going to participate, like archery," said Geisler. "I think those people are getting really excited. And also us, because it's the first time we will have archery participating in the Arctic Winter Games."

Geisler is confident that all the athletes, regardless of their delegation, will have a positive experience in Whitehorse.

"We are very sure they are going to have a great experience," said Geisler. "Last time, in Hay River and Fort Smith, they had a blast. I am very sure it's going to be even more because the surroundings are so good and the Host Society has such good experience.

"We are very much excited, and have no worries bringing our young people here."

Geisler said she appreciates the Host Society's emphasis on the cultural events that will surround the sports.

"Cultural exchange is one of the biggest topics for us also," said Geisler. "Our young people learn something about other people’s cultures, how they play their game, fair play and how they can work together."

Rodda and Geisler agreed that the goal is to make the AWG, no matter where they are held, the premier circumpolar youth cultural and sporting event possible.

Lassen said the feedback from all the contingents has been positive.

"I did hear that we've raised the bar because we have things like the Reconciliation Action Plan and the Pride House, and that's never been done at a Games before," said Lassen. "We are excited that we keep raising the bar."

Because it is the Arctic Winter Games’ 50th anniversary, Lassen said, they can't do the "same old, some old."

The M2 meetings were held at the Coast High Country Inn, and on Wednesday afternoon, all the contingents had a break from the meetings and were treated to a hand games demonstration at the AWG offices.

The contingents competing at the Games are the Yukon, the N.W.T., northern Alberta, Alaska, Greenland, Nunavut, Nunavik, Russia, Finland and Norway.

The Games stretch from March 15-21.

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