South Slave looks to Greenland for help

2018 Arctic Winter Games delegation heading to 2016 Arctic Winter Games for fact-finding mission

James McCarthy | Hay River
February 22, 2016
photo courtesy of Facebook The 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games host society will be out in full force at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games to shadow and take notes on how to do it when the region hosts in two years time.

photo courtesy of Facebook
The 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games host society will be out in full force at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games to shadow and take notes on how to do it when the region hosts in two years’ time.

As hard as it is to believe, 2018 is just around the corner.

When you’re Greg Rowe, you have a lot of work to do as president of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games host society.

Rowe will be leading a delegation, including Hay River’s mayor and Fort Smith’s mayor and senior administrative officer, at the 2016 Nuuk Arctic Winter Games to see how the show should be run two years from now.

“It’s part of the staging manual requirements that the next host society does participate (in the Games),” said Rowe.

The South Slave group will be shadowing counterparts from Greenland and will have unrestricted access learn how to host the Games, including its cultural, athletic and behind the scenes aspects.

Rowe said that includes chef de mission meetings, which happen every morning for the duration of the Games.

“We’re certainly looking forward to meeting and shadowing the directors,” he said. “For example, our director of finance will be working with the finance people, sponsorship will be working with sponsorship and so on.”

While the event is focused squarely on the athletes and the on-field component, what happens off the field seems to be the most important to Rowe. He said his crew is very much interested in how the host society in Nuuk will handle its obligations.

“The non-sport things are all new to our committee.”
-Greg Rowe

“The most important things are care and comfort, accommodations, transportation, security, medical,” he said. “The non-sport things are all new to our committee. We’ve all had experience in running hockey tournaments, curling bonspiels and the like but it’s the things we don’t typically do behind the scenes that we’re interested in seeing how that’s done.”

The 2018 Games will be co-hosted by Hay River and Fort Smith, Hay River having the advantage of having experience hosting a major sporting event – the NWT Track and Field Championships – each year since 1990. It’s the NWT’s biggest annual sporting event, with between 1,000 and 1,200 athletes attending every year from across the territory.

Rowe said that gives the town a huge advantage in managing large groups of athletes.

“We have a good understanding of the magnitude of work we have in front of us because the amount of athletes staying in Hay River during the Games won’t differ much from what we host in track and field,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be any easier but it allows us to see the scope of what’s ahead of us. We know the folks in Greenland have a big job ahead of them and we’ll learn what we can from them in the time we have but not be in their way.”

If there’s anything which could provide a banana peel, it’s accommodation. For the track and field championships, gym floors are used to house some of the athletes who come in from out of town. For the 2018 Games, though, the gymnasium floors will be used for events, meaning they’re off-limits for sleeping bags and air mattresses.

But Rowe said they’ve shown the Arctic Winter Games international committee that it won’t be a problem.

So what are the numbers needed to pull this off?

The overall cost of the 2018 Games will be in the neighbourhood of around $7.3 million with funding expected to come from the federal, territorial and municipal governments of Hay River and Fort Smith. Sponsorship deals are estimated to be worth around $1 million.

But the most important number is volunteers. Around 2,000 will be needed to ensure the Games go off without any sort of hiccup.

Rowe said volunteering has never been an issue in his town but the number needed will be bigger than what’s needed for track and field because it includes security, something not normally needed for track and field.

“Every venue needs to have security, the accommodations need to have security, so being able to talk with the security folks and ask them how much it takes to make it work will be key,” he said. “But right now, the job is to continue building on the excitement we have here and work on making sure we do it right when it’s our turn to host.”