The cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse on Saturday has caused plenty of heartburn and heartache for anyone who was set to make the trip over to compete, coach or volunteer.
But there were questions about what happens to uniforms and registration fees, as in whether there were refunds coming and whether the team members could keep their uniforms.
The short answers to those questions are yes and yes.
Doug Rentmeister, chef de mission for Team NT, confirmed on Monday that the $350 registration fee paid by athletes would be completely refunded and anyone who had a team uniform will not have to give them back.
“We will be reimbursing all registration fees and allowing the kids to keep their clothing,” he said in an interview.
There is also an added bonus coming soon as it was agreed between all the teams that the official pins sets would be sent around, enough so that every athlete who was scheduled to compete would get one from each jurisdiction.
Rentmeister said it was an added memento, though it won’t take away the sting of not competing.
In terms of the overall feeling of what’s happened in the past 48 hours, Rentmeister said he’s had better times.
“Just shocked and disappointed about everything, especially for the kids,” he said. “There’s kids who lost out on their chance to represent the NWT for the last time because the Games are such a huge part of the fabric of the North. It’s our flagship event and having it cancelled sets us back in terms of participation.”
The host society in Whitehorse made the decision this past Saturday to cancel the Games, which were scheduled to begin on March 15. The territory’s acting chief medial health officer, Dr. Catherine Elliott, made the recommendation to shut it down based on the growing risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). Team NT was scheduled to begin departing on charter flights beginning on March 14.
To date, there are still no reported cases of COVID-19 in any of the three territories or in any of the regions where teams were slated to come from.
The cancellation was the first time the Games had ever been called off since the very first edition in Yellowknife in 1970.
“We’re dealing with something unprecedented with this illness,” said Rentmeister, referring to COVID-19. “This is an international event and I understand the decision to cancel it. It was done in the best interests of everyone involved because God forbid something were to happen to anyone.”
The decision was made at the 11th hour, he added.
“We had our (chef de mission) meeting last Thursday and everything seemed to be fine,” he said. “The problem the doctor saw was that we had a lot of kids coming through international airports and the recommendation was made to not jeopardize any residents of Yukon or anyone else who may be coming in. There may not have been anyone with (COVID-19) but you’re more susceptible to it when you’re travelling.”
NNSL Media spoke with several coaches on Saturday who said they were disappointed with what’s happened and Rentmeister said he understands their feelings.
“They’ve been practicing and preparing and to get the rug pulled out from under them is extremely tough,” he said. “It’s hard to go through because we’ve never had this happen before and I can’t imagine how the kids feel. They’re getting ready for what could be the biggest moment in their athletic lives and it’s gone in an instant.”
There are no plans to hold the Games at any other point during the year, said Rentmeister.
As for the rotation of future Games, everything is still scheduled to happen in Wood Buffalo, Alta., for 2022. The location for the 2024 Games has yet to be determined by the Games’ international committee.