Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games rescheduled for early 2023

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The Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games (AWG) have been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. The announcement was made by the Arctic Winter Games International Committee (AWGIC) Tuesday morning.

The 2022 AWG were originally scheduled next year for March 6 to 12. COVID-19 concerns for athletes, coaches and volunteers prompted the AWGIC to postpone the 2022 games early last March.

The Host Society told council a new date would be announced by March 31. When that date arrived, co-chair Melissa Blake said at the AWG’s general meeting the AWGIC had made a decision, but the date would be announced by the international committee soon.

“We are confident in the planning that has taken place thus far and look forward to providing a safe world class experience here in Wood Buffalo,” said Blake in a Tuesday statement. “It will indeed be our time to shine with the support of our partners, volunteers and our community.”

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AWGIC is developing plans for the 2023 games and future Safe Sport initiatives. The number of maximum coaching positions will also be increased for the games.

The international competition hosts nearly 2,000 athletes, coaches and cultural delegates from northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon and the Nunavik region covering northern Quebec. Athletes from parts of Norway, Finland and Russia also compete.

There are 20 sports confirmed for the games, including alpine skiing, figure skating, gymnastics, snowboarding, dene games and speed skating.

The rescheduled dates will not affect bids for the 2024 Arctic Winter Games, which is currently being pursued by Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Speaking at the AGW General Meeting last Wednesday, co-chair Nicole Bourque-Bouchier said organizers were already prepared for a possible delay or cancellation of the games.

The organization began monitoring potential COVID-19 impacts, risks were studied and organizers cut back on purchasing gear with the 2022 logo. Plans and operations were also adapted to match physical distancing and government health orders.

“These key considerations, along with daily planning adjustments, have provided the whole society with the ability to quickly adapt while remaining fiscally responsible,” said Bourque-Bouchier. “Keeping the community engaged as we all make our way to the Wood Buffalo games safely.”

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The Host Society is confirming venues and have guaranteed events will be held in each rural community, she said. Athabasca CIVEO Lodge is available for participants.

A series of pins are being created, a mascot—Nitotem the Lynx—has been chosen and Olympic snowboarder Brooke Voigt has been named games’ ambassador.

Last month, council unanimously passed a budget of nearly $13.6 million for the AWG. The budget includes $4 million from the municipality’s Emerging Issues Reserve, two federal grants worth nearly $2.6 million, and a provincial grant of $1.8 million.

Now that a new date for the games has been chosen, a revised budget will need to be presented to council.

Another $1 million in the Emerging Issues Reserve has been set aside for potential costs for restarting operations, subject to council’s approval. Financial services says this amount guarantees a smooth transition to an active operating group, since it matches how much has already been spent on the games since 2019.

– With files from Vincent McDermott

lbeamish@postmedia.com

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