Almost ready to raise the curtain

2016 Arctic Winter Games host society in final stages of planning for the big show

James McCarthy | Nuuk, Greenland
February 22, 2016
AWG2016 photo A young girl waves the NWT flag during a walkabout in Nuuk, Greenland to mark six months to go until the start of the 2016 Arctic Winter Games this past September.

AWG2016 photo
A young girl waves the NWT flag during a walkabout in Nuuk, Greenland to mark six months to go until the start of the 2016 Arctic Winter Games this past September.

Three years of planning and preparations all come down to a few days.

And there’s no going back from here.

The 2016 Arctic Winter Games are literally days away, and a throng of people from nine participating jurisdictions is about to descend on the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk.

Are they afraid? Never, said Maliina Abelsen, general manager of the 2016 Arctic Winter Games host society.

The only question, according to Abelsen, is are they as ready as they can be?

“We have prepared for the past two to three years now but we’re always wondering if there’s something missing,” she said. “We have tried to look at this from all different angles and we’re at the point where we can’t make really big changes. You just have to trust that your planning has been good.”

In other words, Abelsen and her crew are simply dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and waiting until March 5, which is when the athletes start arriving.

“You just have to trust that your planning has been good.”
-Maliina Abelsen

The venues are up to snuff as best as they can, helped in large part by several test events.

Abelsen said these events have been happening every weekend for the last three months, but while the venues are in good shape, there’s a lack of snow on the ground – the least that Abelsen can ever remember – and that’s a concern, especially when it comes to biathlon.

“Everyone is wondering where the snow is and so we don’t have enough snow to complete biathlon at the moment,” she said.

Snow is forecast for the Nuuk area in the days before the Games. Fingers are crossed.

Should there be a lack of snow on the ground for events such as biathlon, you can rule out snow being brought in from outside communities as the infrastructure simply doesn’t make transporting it feasible.

Abelsen said there are two snow cannons which have been brought in just for the Games and they have been running 24 hours a day for the past few weeks.

But those cannons are only producing snow for the alpine skiing and snowboarding events, leaving biathlon in the lurch.

Abelsen said they are doing their best to transport snow produced by the cannons to the biathlon site to help shore up the resources.

Beyond the sport side of things, Abelsen said there will be plenty of things for tourists to do in Nuuk, such as checking out a cultural fair and cafe in the heart of the city.

The one thing tourists will notice, however, is that everything isn’t as spread out as they would think.

“You can go around the city in about 10 minutes,” said Abelsen. “You’ll also find that, unlike Canada, where you do a lot of driving to get to places, you can walk to a lot of places in Nuuk. I think people will enjoy that.”

If you’re going to Nuuk for the Games, you had better have accommodations of some kind because every single hotel room is booked in the city, as are bed and breakfasts. Some people have been lucky enough to find a homestay with people who have extra rooms.

“It’s not like you can just fly in and say you’re going to stay in another town because you can’t drive to any other community,” said Abelsen. “It’s the parents who are trying to find rooms and the local people have been really good in calling us and saying they have an extra room.”

Something else you’ll notice is ticket sales, or lack thereof. That’s because the host society isn’t selling any. Admission to each and every single event, with the exception of the opening ceremony and the cultural galas, is free of charge to everyone.

Abelsen said that was done to allow everyone a chance to experience the Games and be a part of it.
“It’s just a matter of you get there first and you’re in,” she said. “It’s very important that the local people experience the Games.”

The reason for all the sporting events being free came based upon the host society seeing how things went in Fairbanks, Alaska for the 2014 Games.

What they saw, Abelsen said, wasn’t very good.

“A lot of empty venues,” she said. “That was a shame because we want everyone to experience this so we decided not to sell tickets. The municipality and our home-rule government are paying for most of this and they feel responsible giving something back to the local people.”

The 2016 Arctic Winter Games kick off on March 6 with the opening ceremony at Inussivik Sport Centre.