Juneau to make bid for Arctic Winter Games

Posted: Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Mayor Bruce Botelho believes Juneau is the ideal location for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games.

"One of my mayoral long-term goals is to see Juneau be host," he said. "Juneau is just the kind of compact community that will be ideal."

The biannual international games have never been hosted in Alaska's capital, something Botelho would like to see change. The games bring together thousands of youth competitors, coaches and performers from Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska for sports ranging from dog mushing, speed skating to cross country skiing and more.

The event also involves a large cultural component, said Kristi West, a volunteer that has attended the games each time they've been held since 1996.

"It is sport, but it's also cultural activities and it is a great opportunity for sportsmanship," she said.

The 21st Arctic Winter Games will be held from March 6 through 13 in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada. Botelho is hosting a gathering in the Assembly Chambers at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss bringing the games here in 2014.

"It's time for us to be actively looking at making a bid," he said.

Both Botelho and West believe Juneau has the proper infrastructure to host the games. The city had come close to hosting the games previously, but fell short each time, Botelho said.

"I think that there may have been a variety of factors, but I think weather was one concern at the time when the committee came to visit," he said.

The last time the games were held in Alaska was the 2006 games in Kenai.

"One of the really neat things about bringing the games here, the community ends up working toward this project that involves over 2,500 volunteers, and so it can be a really good opportunity to bring the community together to offer this prestigious event for everybody across the state," West said.

The city has plenty of space to host the events, particularly with the addition of Thunder Mountain High School. There is also the Treadwell Arena for the skating events and lots of possibilities at Eaglecrest ski area, West said.

"We have as good of facilities as any place that has given the games," she said. "I think we have a really good shot."

Team Alaska has more than 300 participants, about 40 who are from Southeast that are mostly from Juneau, West said.

"What it really comes down to is it's giving Alaska athletes the opportunity to participate in games along with people that have the same population and the same kind of environment so they can compete equally," she said.

The games began in the late 1960s and over the years started to focus more on youth competitions. The games also focus on the cultures of the participating nations, West said.

"It's really great as far as bringing cultural dancers, music, all different things that are available across the state," she said.

It also gives the participants the opportunity to meet people from different countries, West said.

"They get this great opportunity to not only compete but also create these great social experiences with people that they would probably never meet otherwise," she said.

Whether or not Juneau is awarded the games will take some time and planning, Botelho said.

"It's ultimately a decision that is made by the international committee," he said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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