I’ll be honest – I was expecting the 2018 Arctic Winter Games to be a sideshow of the highest order.

So many questions about how things were going to go, how the transportation would happen, how the sports would fare etc. Seems it was all for nothing because everything has gone swimmingly to date. I’m not saying that because I’m here and trying to put a positive light on things. It has genuinely been a smooth show.

If anything has gone wrong, it’s been kept very quiet. If something happens, I usually am one of the first to know about it, but most of the problems have been dealt with swiftly. There’s been the Zamboni driver taking out the boards at the new arena not once but twice. A quick fix and it was taken care of. Some coach at the biathlon venue messed with some cones, which threw off some racers in snowshoe biathlon but it didn’t really affect the final standings.

The snow snake tracks were ripped up by some thoughtful jackass and their snow machine the night before the event was supposed to take place on Tuesday but that’s where the experience of the officials came through. Peter Daniels and his crew got the shovels out and managed to smooth everything over. When they were finished, you’d never know a sled went through it.

Events ran behind but they run behind all the time no matter the venue and no matter the host city/town. That’s why times are scheduled and not firm. Things change.

Sahara Lafferty, left, and Daniel Ives were all smiles at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremonies in Hay River on March 18. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

Something else I appreciated was not being lumped into one of three categories of journalists here, which is something I highly recommended to the 2018 host society to not do on the way home from Greenland two years ago. I was considered a “circumpolar” journalist in Greenland, which meant I didn’t have the privilege of a rental car or meetings with certain people that only “international” journalists could get. I wonder how the “Greenlandic” journalists fared. I had all but threatened to lose it if they even had the thought of pulling that stunt.

Access hasn’t really been a problem, either. Depending on where you go, you either get decent access to events or they stick you in a corner and tell you to take it or leave it. Yeah, because us in the media business love being pigeon-holed. Everyone has been good with doing interviews, even the international folks with translators. I don’t get the feeling things are being lost in translation when I speak with them and they’ve come up with some great quotes.

I even made friends with Jens Brinch, president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, this year. We had a nice chat and all of the head-butting we did two years ago in Greenland seemed to have gone away.

If there is a disappointment, it’s the dog mushing event. Only two teams – Alaska and the Northwest Territories – competed, which meant a good shot at an ulu for the mushers. But it’s not fun watching just two sets of teams going at it every time. No Yukon, no Alberta North and no Nunavut, which was rough to see.

One young musher from Alaska I spoke with had an idea of getting mushers from other contingents to train either in her home state or in the NWT with dog teams there. There are plenty of dogs in kennels in both areas and it wouldn’t be a problem. All you would need is one or two athletes who would want to give it a shot and train for a while leading up to the Games.

It solves a couple of problems: first, you’re growing the grassroots, which is vital for dog mushing to survive in the Games; second, it also solves a potential problem about dogs being taken to other countries. Sure, there are instances where laws in certain places need to be followed but a majority of host locations are located in North America.

So all of everyone’s fears about whether this would be a gongshow worthy of derision can be put to rest. It has been better than I expected and I’m pretty sure if you went around and spoke to any of the athletes, coaches or officials, they would tell you the same thing. Some people may give me a dirty look for saying something like this, but from what I heard talking with people leading up to the Games, they were all thinking the same thing. I’m just honest enough to admit that I was wrong.

Everything goes back to normal next week.


James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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