The 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games (AWG), an event that demonstrates sportsmanship and culture in the circumpolar world, is an event like no other. Included are unique competitions from the Indigenous cultures, adding an exciting component not seen in other Games. Almost 2,000 athletes from Alaska, Greenland, Northern Alberta, Nunavut, Yukon, Nunavik, Russia and Scandinavia and the NWT participated in 19 different sports in the South Slave communities of Hay River and Fort Smith.

Records were broken and spirits were high. Alberta North held strong throughout the week, finishing first with 133 medals. Alaska won the Hodgson Trophy for the delegation whose athletes best exemplify the ideals of fair play and team spirit.

Arctic Winter Games International Committee president, Jens Brinch says of this year’s Games, “You see a lot of happy kids going around and that’s the most important thing for us.” This also speaks to the many opportunities that the kids had in between their competitions and the cultural events. There were bonfires every night, a family feud event, dances, snowshoeing, tobogganing and so many entertaining things to do.

Women’s NWT Hockey Team with Northwestel Vice-President Paul Gillard and Kevin Chapman Manager, Community Investment.

The participants also had some beautiful venues to compete in. Hay River opened their new Recreation Centre just days before the Games started. The amazing new complex houses the hockey rink and curling ice. The transformed curling ice surface became a professional Volleyball field. A construction shop was transformed into a Gymnastics and Wrestling arena. In Fort Smith, the Snowboard Hill was another incredible venue for the Games. Caroline Cochrane, NWT’s Minister of Community and Affairs, says, “This snowboard hill is exciting; it will be left here. This is a legacy left for the children in the South Slave.”

An ongoing highlight throughout the Games was our theme song: Serena Ryder’s “Be the Ones.” The song shares strong messages that everyone can relate to, and captured the spirit of the North. “Taking back the power of our lives to live / I know we’re ready,” the lyrics aligned with the AWG theme for all participants, volunteers and supporters, to “Find Your Power.”

“It’s not very often that we get an opportunity to connect with someone of her caliber. It’s exciting to have Serena as our theme song artist. Our marketing team sent out a blanket of emails to some International, Canadian and Northern artists. Serena’s team got back to us, having a real affinity for the North, and wanting to get involved. It worked out fantastic for us,” says Todd Shafer, General Manager of the host society. The theme song is always such an important element of the Games, echoing the strength, dedication and spirit of the athletes and communities. It unites the circumpolar North and encourages camaraderie, with friendly and fierce competition throughout the Games, it continues, in our hearts and heads, and on our playlist.

Cross-country Skiing competition at the Fort Smith Ski Club.

Coming together was the message of the Opening Ceremonies. On the final day of the Games, Host Society Greg Rowe had this to say, “After years of planning, here we are at the Closing Ceremonies! I want to thank all of the volunteers for the thousands of hours they have given to the Games. It was an absolute pleasure to welcome the circumpolar world to the south slave Region.”

Everyone can be very, very proud of achieving the high standard that supported the Games; the athletes in competition, in cultural events, and in connecting the participants, volunteers, staff and communities, as well as those from around the world following on social media. It leaves legacies in the communities, and plants seeds in the hearts and minds of the kids watching, now inspired to train, “find their power,” and be involved in the future.

VIAThorsten Gohl
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