FAIRBANKS — The president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee says he has been impressed by Fairbanks officials and their bid for the 2014 games.
Gerry Thick was last in Fairbanks in 1988 when the city hosted the games, and he said he was not quite so impressed 23 years ago, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
But Thick said Wednesday he is pleased to return for the city’s bid to bring the games back, and Fairbanks officials have kept him busy with their presentation.
“If someone would have said that (23) years later, we’d be back, I would have said something’s wrong with them,” Thick said during a press conference at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center.
The committee arrived in Fairbanks Tuesday night and has had a busy schedule. Wednesday’s activities included tours of the Birch Hill Recreation Area and Lathrop High School, two of the 32 total venues planned for use in the 2014 games, a traditional Athabascan lunch and a welcome reception with the community.
The group was scheduled to tour locations in North Pole as well as the Carlson Center and Curling Club in Fairbanks on Thursday.
“The infrastructure will never be an issue here,” Thick said, adding that Fairbanks offers medical availability, opportunities for cultural events and all the buildings necessary for the games.
Fairbanks is the only Alaska city bidding for the 2014 games. If, for any reason, the committee’s tour reveals inadequacies in Fairbanks’ ability to host, it would take the issue back to the state level, Thick said.
“We would go back to the state and ask for a push for more cities to bid,” he said following the press conference.
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins told committee members that 71 organizations participated in organizing the bid with the help of more than 250 volunteers.
In addition to the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and state Sen. Joe Thomas were introduced at the reception. U.S. Sen. Mark Begich also recorded a message that was played at the event.
“Fairbanks is more than capable of playing host to the games and can do so with style and warm hospitality,” Begich said in the video, addressing the committee members.
Thick said the final decision will be made within the next month.
The first Arctic Winter Games were held in 1970 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, while the 2012 games are scheduled for Whitehorse, Yukon. The 2010 games were held in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
More than 2,000 athletes, coaches and other members of the competing delegations are expected to participate in the 2014 games, making the weeklong event about the same size as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The Arctic Winter Games are a biennial celebration of sports and culture for northern and Arctic athletes and are designed to bring the circumpolar world closer together.
Events include Native games, Dene games, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, alpine skiing, hockey, badminton, basketball, curling, dog mushing, figure skating, gymnastics, indoor soccer, table tennis, speed skating, ski biathlon, snowshoe biathlon, snowshoeing, volleyball and wrestling.