The 2018 Arctic Winter Games are officially open after thousands of athletes attended a ceremony inside Hay River’s newly opened arena on Sunday.

A separate, smaller celebration took place in Fort Smith, which is co-hosting the Games, for local officials and volunteers.

Hockey player Connor Steed, from Fort Smith, and Hay River futsal player Fiona Huang read out the athletes’ oath on-stage for the Northwest Territories during the ceremony in Hay River. Bruce Green, from Hay River, took the officials’ oath.

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President of the host society Greg Rowe, Premier Bob McLeod, and the mayors of both communities were among those to speak at the ceremony, which began with the parade of athletes.

Jens Brinch, president of the Arctic Winter Games’ governing body, on stage at the 2018 opening ceremony. Photo: Arctic Winter Games host society

Fort Smith’s Veronica MacDonald carried the flame into the arena, while three-time Olympian and former Arctic Winter Games athlete Brendan Green, a biathlete from Hay River, addressed athletes by video.

You can watch a full replay of the Hay River ceremony on the CBC North Facebook page.

In Fort Smith, celebration chair Hilary LeRoy-Gauthier told Cabin Radio everything had fallen into place.

“It’s two years we have been working up to this,” said LeRoy-Gauthier.

“There was lots of stress around whether this would work – we’re so tiny, a lot is relying on people in the community. And just like a lot of us thought, everyone is stepping up.”

Team NT athletes arrive at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony - AWG
Team NT athletes arrive at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony. Photo: Arctic Winter Games host society
The Canadian flag at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony - AWG
The Canadian flag at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony. Photo: Arctic Winter Games host society
Drummers at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony - AWG
Drummers at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony. Photo: Arctic Winter Games host society

Speed skating was the first sport to get under way at the Games, holding its 1,000m heats and semi-finals in Fort Smith on Sunday morning.

“It was a good day,” said Team NT speed skating coach Shane Clark. “There were a lot of good results. More importantly, everyone got into their race and performed well.

“It’s a learning curve, it’s an ice surface we haven’t been on before. To see them go out, skate well and have a good look to them was good for day one.”

Fort Smith opening ceremony
Kechi the owl toasts bannock with children at an Arctic Winter Games ceremony in Fort Smith. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Members of the Fort Smith 'spirit squad' help to cheer during an Arctic Winter Games ceremony in the town
Members of the Fort Smith ‘spirit squad’ help to cheer during an Arctic Winter Games ceremony in the town. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Flags at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Fort Smith
Flags at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Fort Smith. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio