The 2022 edition of the Arctic Winter Games, due to be held in and around Fort McMurray, will not go ahead as planned.
Organizers say the event, originally scheduled to take place in Alberta’s Wood Buffalo region from March 6-12, 2022, “will be rescheduled to a later date to be announced.”
In a news release, the Arctic Winter Games International Committee said taking the decision a year out represented “a planned and proactive response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.”
The 2020 Arctic Winter Games, in Whitehorse, were cancelled at the last minute as the pandemic’s initial onset reached the North.
The Games, ordinarily held every two years since 1970, are one of the North’s biggest sporting events. They bring together young athletes from northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Russia.
“The decision to plan the postponement of the Games was made to ensure the health and safety of all the participants, coaches, volunteers, staff, spectators, and the host community,” organizers said in a statement.
“No decision has been made at this time on the new dates,” the statement continued, adding organizers were “diligently working together to determine an appropriate date for the Games to be rescheduled and intend to announce that date in the near future.”
Consultants had spent January assessing the likely risk of going ahead with the Games. Their report found the risk remained “too high to tolerate,” organizers said.
In particular, risk remained around the health and safety of those taking part, the potential for a “diminished participant experience,” and the threat of a significant financial loss.
“As of right now, no decisions have been made on adjustments to athlete eligibility rules, including age categories,” organizers said.
Rescheduling the Arctic Winter Games will not be easy.
The Canada Winter Games are due to be held on Prince Edward Island in February and March 2023, meaning simple postponement of the Arctic Winter Games by a year would set up an almost direct clash.
In the NWT’s case, many of the same athletes – and volunteer coaches – would be in the running for involvement in both.
The increasingly congested sporting calendar already includes the Canada Summer Games in Niagara, originally to be held this year but now scheduled for August 2022.
The North American Indigenous Games have been postponed from 2021 to the summer of 2022 in Halifax, but no firm dates are understood to have been agreed.