Hay River-based athletes at the 2020 Polar Pond Hockey tournament, wearing uniforms for that year's Arctic Winter Games – which never happened. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Vaccination against Covid-19 is no longer mandatory for participants at the Arctic Winter Games, a governing committee said on Friday.
By email, John H Rodda – president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee – said the policy would be dropped “to align with current public health advice.”
Organizers “will no longer require participating athletes, coaches, managers, mission staff, and others to be fully vaccinated to be part of the Wood Buffalo 2023 Arctic Winter Games,” Rodda wrote.
“If, however, any jurisdiction wishes to enforce its own requirements – including other health measures related to Covid-19 – the AWGIC will respect their autonomy as a team decision.”
The decision means no edition of the Arctic Winter Games, ordinarily held every two years, will have required vaccination. The 2020 Games were scrapped at the last minute just as the pandemic’s first wave reached Canada, and the Wood Buffalo edition has yet to take place after being pushed back from 2022.
In a separate statement on its website, Sport North – which prepares and manages Team NT for the Arctic Winter Games – said NWT athletes would no longer need proof of vaccination.
“This recent news obviously impacts the territorial trials slated for December 7-12. As a result, the mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policy for the AWG territorial trials will be removed,” Sport North stated.
The Team NT selection process in some sports could be affected, for example if athletes had not registered to take part in December’s trials as they were not fully vaccinated under the previous policy. Anyone who believes their participation is affected by the change is instructed to contact Sport North.
The international committee said “public health circumstances have evolved” but organizers would “encourage adoption of the recommended health measures” when the Games take place in Fort McMurray from January 29 to February 4 next year.