“I was often the last kid picked for kick ball,” Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell said as he stood among some of Juneau’s accomplished athletes Tuesday night at the Juneau Arts and Cultural Center. “I have never been an athlete at the Arctic Winter Games but I got to go with the team to Whitehorse last year and I am very excited with what we see.”
Treadwell, a Sandy Hill, Connecticut high school swimmer and hockey player, was the guest speaker for a special Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska celebration honoring Southeast Regional athletes, families and Mission Staff from past, present and future games.
Broader participation throughout the state is a priority for the 2014 games . The legislature, year in and year out, remains faithful to the AWG on the host city, state and international level. Just over $480,000 is on this year’s state budget for Team Alaska.
“For the money we put in we want to make sure more Alaskans are involved,” Treadwell said. “It is a great opportunity to be involved as a part of hosting
Treadwell also stated that the selection process is going to be improved.
“We have many more contenders than people we are going to send to the games,” Treadwell said. “I think of them as part of Team Alaska too. So the whole process of the ladders to get there and the different selection process in each sport, while it may not have a favorable outcome for an athlete, we want them to think of themselves as a part of Team Alaska even if they don’t get to go to Fairbanks. And then come to Fairbanks to root for the team.”
Treadwell was also announcing the partnership between Team Alaska and Governor Sean Parnell’s Choose Respect Initiative.
“We are going to ask the athletes to sign the Choose Respect pledge,” Treadwell said. “The one that started at Thunder Mountain and to say you are not going to stand by and condone violence towards women. We are actually rewriting the pledge so that women can sign to. This is so important. We want to be best on the playing field, we want to be the best in curling, the best in skiing, but we really want to have respect for each other. And we want to build community while we do this”
Honored at the gathering with Certificates of Appreciation for their contributions to the games over the years were George Smith, Guy Thibodeau, Merry Ellefson and Kristi West.
A slide show and video was shown and various years of Arctic Winter Games memorabilia was on display courtesy of the Alaska State Museum.
Local athlete Tristan Knutson-Lombardo spoke to the attendees about the athlete experience of being in the games.
More of these celebrations are planned for the coming months around the state.
“The real purpose of these gatherings is to do more out reach,” Southeast Team Alaska Board Member Jim Powell said. “We want to improve just how you can get
into the games. This is unique, it is the first time this is being done.”
Fairbanks, the host city of the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, will be an attraction for many reasons, among them is, of course, the opportunity to view the Northern Lights.
“Of course the Aurora will be visible, but we will also be having the World Championship Ice Carving, Ice Alaska, going on at the same time,” Fairbanks Mayor Luke Hopkins said. “And the Open North America Dog Sled Racing. People are going to love the experience of being at Fairbanks.”
Fairbanks will also be hosting the annual Doyon Corporation Shareholders meeting and the Tanana Chiefs Conference and many cultural activities will be involved.
Several million dollars in public and private funds will be required to host the games in Fairbanks, and annually to continue supporting Team Alaska and get the athletes to future venues.
“It is nice to get together with people you don’t really know but you love the same sports,” Naomi Welling said. Welling competed in snowshoeing in the 2010 games at Grand Prairie and gymnastics in 2012 at White Horse.
“It is nice to have that special bond. I may try to go Arctic Sports this time.”