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'Viable' bids for Arctic Winter Games
Five-person delegation from international committee tours Inuvik, as well as South Slave's Hay River and Fort Smith

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 2, 2015

Both NWT bids to host the 2018 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) have impressed the man leading the process to decide which will be the winner.

NNSL photo/graphic

John Rodda, left, the vice-president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, and Fort Smith Mayor Brad Brake leave the arena in Hay River on Jan. 29 following a pep rally in support of the South Slave's bid for the 2018 games. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

"Both bids are viable," said John Rodda, vice-president of the AWG International Committee, at the conclusion of a whirlwind trip to the territory last week.

On Jan. 28, Rodda and four other members of a bid review committee he chairs visited Inuvik, and the next day they travelled to Hay River and Fort Smith, which have jointly submitted a bid from the South Slave.

"Every area has its own attributes," he said, following a boisterous pep rally in Hay River at the end of the visit. "Some are strengths, some are not as strong. Some give a little bit of this, some give a little bit of that. And that's the hard part for us because, when you submit a bid, we have to give you all full consideration."

Rodda, who is from Anchorage, Alaska, said the international committee will try to make the best decision for the most successful games, and for the best experience for athletes.

"We visit prospective communities who have submitted bids," he explained. "We'll go through a complete evaluation process. We're not done with the process here yet. The committee that I chair will sit down later and go through all of our notes."

The committee will look at criteria such as athletic facilities, accommodation, security, transportation and more.

"There's a host of things that have to be considered," said Rodda. "We deliberate on that and then we internally think we have the right recommendation. I will write that recommendation up and I will send it to the entire international committee."

Then the committee will make a decision, which is expected to take place by the end of February or the beginning of March.

"Before that announcement is made, I go back and consult with the NWT to make sure that the minister is included so that he knows exactly what we're preparing to do so nobody gets surprised with anything, and then issue a formal press release," said Rodda.

There will also be personal telephone calls to both the successful and unsuccessful bid organizations.

Hay River co-hosted the AWG in 1978 with Pine Point, but Inuvik has never hosted the games.

The Town of Inuvik submitted a bid from the Beaufort Delta with the support of Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and Fort McPherson.

The pep rally at the arena in Hay River in support of the South Slave bid - designed to impress the visitors from the AWG International Committee - featured young skaters with flags, blaring music, cheers from a couple of hundred people, confident predictions from supporters and a video message from Brendan Green, an Olympic biathlete from Hay River and a former participant in the AWG.

"We've had a really busy day," said Hay River Mayor Andrew Cassidy during the pep rally. "We did a tour of Fort Smith this morning. We toured Hay River today. We've seen arenas and community halls, schools and pools. We've met volunteers, youth and elders. So as far as I'm concerned it's a pretty easy decision the selection committee has."

Cassidy encouraged those at the pep rally to roar their support for hosting the games in the South Slave to show the visiting delegation that the AWG is backed by the public.

"We need to make sure that they know we are committed," he said.

Fort Smith Mayor Brad Brake also briefly spoke at the rally, noting that, after the tour of his community and Hay River, it is easy to see that the South Slave is the best place for 2018 Arctic Winter Games.

After the rally, Rodda said people had been marvellous hosts during the delegation's tour of Inuvik and the South Slave.

"Everybody has shown us the venues, they've shown us the hospitality, they've told us what they can do," he said, adding the experience for the five committee members was truly magnificent.

The AWG committee announced in 2013 that the 2018 games would be held in the NWT. Yellowknife is out of the running for the event, since the city is contemplating a bid to host the 2023 Canada Games.

The AWG, which would attract an estimated 2,000 athletes, would require about 2,500 volunteers.

- with files from Sarah Ladik

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