Empire editorial: Juneau is the prime location for the '06 Winter Games

Posted: Sunday, December 08, 2002

Officials of the International Committee of the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) will visit Juneau next month to make an assessment of Juneau's suitability to host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games. The games are held every two years and the 2004 event will be held at Wood Buffalo, Canada. Juneau is competing with Kenai and Fairbanks for the honor of playing host when it is Alaska's turn to welcome some 1,600 competitors to our state from other northern regions such as Greenland, Russia and Canada.

The Juneau AWG Bid Committee, chaired by Jim Powell, has been hard at work over the past seven months preparing the bid package, which lays out a comprehensive picture of the resources and amenities our community will put forth as the prospective location for the week-long celebration of northern cultures and athletic prowess.

The athletes will compete in 20 sporting events ranging from outdoor winter contests such as snowshoeing, dog mushing, biathlon and alpine skiing to indoor activities such as basketball, figure skating, hockey, gymnastics, soccer, and the culturally rich arctic sports and Dene games.

Without question, putting on the equivalent of a small-scale winter Olympics will be an enormous undertaking, requiring some 2,000 volunteers and a whole lot of community support.

The benefits of being a host city, however, far outweigh the expense and effort required to make it happen. Juneau has proven many times that no community can hold a candle to it when it comes to putting on a celebration. The outpouring of support for the Olympic Torch Relay last January is just one example of how the entire community was drawn together to celebrate something truly extraordinary.

The Arctic Winter Games is more than a celebration of winter sports; it is a celebration of diverse northern cultures, international kinship, and the spirit of youth and of life itself.

If Juneau is chosen as host for the 2006 games, the community will benefit in many ways before, during and long after the lights have dimmed on the closing ceremony.

The investment in the portable ice rinks, new cross-country trails, grandstands, and improvements to the Eaglecrest lodge will add to Juneau's recreational offerings and see good use for many years after the games end.

In the wake of the games, Juneau will be left with an enduring sense of community pride in the accomplishment and gain a lasting place in the legacy of winter sports.

The visit by the site committee is coming up soon and volunteers are needed to help make their visit memorable. Those interested in helping should contact Kim Keifer, director of parks and recreation, at 586-5226 or by e-mail to: kim_keifer@ci.juneau.ak.us. Local participants in past Arctic Winter Games are also urged to contact Kim.

Don Smith

dssmith@juneauempire.com

586-1428



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