Games come to a close in Hay River

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The Arctic Winter Games have come and gone in the South Slave.

The closing ceremonies for the 2018 edition of the circumpolar sporting event were held on March 24 in Hay River’s brand-new recreation centre, where the games had been officially opened on March 18.

Zhanayii Drygeese, right, of Dettah carries the flag for Team NT at the March 24 closing ceremonies in Hay River for the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

“What a great week,” Greg Rowe, president of the 2018 South Slave Arctic Winter Games Host Society, said to the assembled athletes. “I hope you all enjoyed yourself the way we did.”

Rowe thanked the nine contingents, the athletes, mission staff, sponsors, government partners and the host society’s staff.

And he especially thanked the hundreds of dedicated volunteers, whom he described as the “heart and soul” of the games.

“In many respects, I feel we’ve moved a mountain and we couldn’t have done it without all of your help,” he said.

The road to the games had been a long one, Rowe noted. “And now that we’ve reached the end, we’ll have the time to reflect on the milestones we reached and numerous accomplishments we achieved.”

Premier Bob McLeod also thanked the host communities.

“What a fabulous experience,” he said. “You have done us all proud.”

McLeod also offered special thanks to the volunteers for their contributions.

“We simply could not have done it without you,” he said.

The premier also thanked Rowe and his dedicated host society for pulling off a “momentous task.”

Hay River’s Brendan Green – an Olympic biathlete who once competed in the Arctic Winter Games – told the athletes that he hopes they were inspired and motivated by the games as he once was.

“Be proud of what you’ve accomplished,” he said.

At the March 24 closing ceremonies of the South Slave Arctic Winter Games, Mayor Brad Mapes, right, hands the games flag to John Rodda, centre, vice-president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee. Rodda in turn handed the flag to a Yukon athlete representing Whitehorse, where the next games will be held in 2020.

Athletes from the circumpolar world – about 1,900 of them – gathered in Hay River for the closing ceremonies, including about 800 competing in Fort Smith who were bussed in for the event and then continued on their way home.

The nine teams at the games represented Alaska, Yukon, Nunavut, Greenland, the Sapmi region of Scandinavia, the Yumal region of Russia, Northern Alberta, the Nunavik region of Quebec, and the host NWT.

The closing ceremonies were much more casual than the opening ceremonies

However, two pieces of business were taken care of at the event.

The Stuart Hodgson Award was presented to Team Alberta. The award recognizes the contingent that demonstrates the best understanding of the philosophy of the games and exemplifies the spirit of fair play.

In addition, the Arctic Winter Games flag was turned over by Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes and Fort Smith Mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley to an athlete representing the Yukon capital of Whitehorse, where the next games will be held in 2020.

At the end of the ceremonies, Mapes told The Hub that he felt satisfaction with the games.

“It’s going to be something that’s going to be remembered for many years, and we’re going to see the ripple effects for our community in the coming years,” he said.

The entertainment for the closing ceremonies included Yellowknife rapper Godson, the Arctic Winter Games Spirit Squad, and Fort Providence’s John Landry performing his famous song Hina Na Ho (Celebration).

It was the second time that Hay River had hosted the Arctic Winter Games. It co-hosted the event with Pine Point in 1978.

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