2022 Arctic Winter Games put on hold due to pandemic

The Arctic Winter Games International Committee has announced the postponement of the 2022  Arctic Winter Games, that were set to take place in Wood Buffalo, Alta.

In a news release sent Wednesday morning, the committee said the decision comes as a “proactive response to the global COVID-19 pandemic” after conversations with the Wood Buffalo host society, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the government of Alberta.

The Games were originally scheduled to take place from March 6-12, 2022 but will be rescheduled to a later date to be announced, the release states.

The high-profile circumpolar sporting competition normally runs every two years.

About 2,000 athletes from around the world — including Russia, Greenland, Finland and Norway, as well as Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik, Northwest Territories, northern Alberta and Alaska usually attend.

This is the second Games in a row to be impacted by the pandemic, following the cancellation of the 2020 games that were set to take place in Whitehorse.

Health and safety are ‘paramount concern’

“The decision to plan the postponement of the Games was made to ensure the health and safety of all the participants, coaches, volunteers, staff, spectators and the host community,” the release states.

The committee also said the pandemic would likely prevent them from hosting a meaningful experience.

“The health and safety of our circumpolar participants, coaches and volunteers is of paramount concern, and although it is a great disappointment that we must postpone the 2022 Arctic Winter Games, we are steadfast in our decision,” John Flynn, president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, said in the release.

“We analyzed the relevant risks and considered our tolerance for those risks, and we learned from best practices employed by other major games leaders to come to this difficult decision,” said Flynn.

Melissa Blake, co-chair of the 2022 Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games, said in the release that the host society supports the international committee’s decision and understands the “significant considerations” involved.

“We would like to thank the community and our volunteers for their continued support as we prepare to welcome the circumpolar North at a later date,” Blake said.

Aaron Wells, executive director of Aboriginal Sports Circle NWT, said that it’s disappointing news to hear following the cancellation of last year’s Games.

“I feel bad for the athletes and the coaches and especially athletes that may never get to experience the games if they’re postponed long enough,” said Wells.

“But I do understand that there’s a lot of decisions and factors that are taken into place to kind of come up with these decisions.”

Wells said that the Aboriginal Sports Circle was also looking forward to archery being introduced to the games in 2022, after its premiere was cancelled along with the Games in 2020.

“It definitely has a major effect on athlete development in helping prepare for other major games or other tournaments or national events.”

But despite the difficult news, Wells, who is also a long-time basketball coach, said that within five minutes of receiving it, a number of different coaches were reaching out to each other about different opportunities they can provide to athletes.

“It’s not like we sit around and pout about these games being postponed indefinitely. We move on to the next potential event or what we can do to make sure that these athletes are getting the opportunities they deserve.”

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