Organizers of the Arctic Winter Games say the next edition will now take place in early 2023, a year-long delay brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The delay will mean a five-year gap between the 2018 Arctic Winter Games, hosted in Hay River and Fort Smith, and the Wood Buffalo Games now scheduled for January 29 to February 4, 2023.
The Whitehorse edition of the Arctic Winter Games, due to have been held in 2020, was scrapped entirely at the pandemic’s onset. Organizers had at the start of March this year announced some form of postponement to the Wood Buffalo edition, due to be held in 2022. The new dates were revealed on Tuesday.
“The International Committee engaged in a collaborative process with stakeholders to ensure a rescheduled Games, set against full sport event calendars, active venues and busy teams, was achievable,” said John Flynn, president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee.
“We are extremely delighted to have rescheduled the Wood Buffalo Arctic Winter Games … we truly miss our northern neighbours and look forward to seeing them again in 2023.”
Melissa Blake, co-chair of Wood Buffalo’s host society, said she was “confident in the planning that has taken place thus far and look forward to providing a safe, world-class experience here in Wood Buffalo.”
The 2024 edition of the Games, in Alaska, is still expected to go ahead as planned a year after the rescheduled Wood Buffalo Games.
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.
Moving to late January and early February is in part an attempt to avoid a clash with 2023’s Canada Winter Games, due to be held on Prince Edward Island in February and March that year.
Meanwhile, organizers said the number of coaching positions allocated to teams at the Arctic Winter Games would be increased.
Officials said the increase was part of an “ongoing commitment to the safety of participants” that would “help enhance participant experience and protect athletes, coaches and cultural delegates from potentially vulnerable situations.”