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Grande Prairie makes case for 2022 Arctic Winter Games

It appears the Grande Prairie area has made a good impression on the International Arctic Winter Games Committee. After spending Monday checking out facilities in the City and County, Vice-President John Rodda said he was impressed.

“The facility inventory is hard to even describe; I’m just amazed at what I’ve seen and the value-added that comes out of having so many facilities. It’s the options and alternatives based on meeting the needs of the athletes.”

The games are an international sporting competition and Indigenous culture showcase held every two years. They bring together athletes from northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the Yukon, Nunavik, Quebec, Alaska, Greenland, the Sapmi region that includes northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and northwestern Russia, and the Yamal region of Russia.

The selection committee has a checklist of around 50 things it is looking for in a host community, but Rodda says they boil down to athlete care, comfort, security, accommodations, food and experience. Rodda has 45 years experience with the games and was last in the community for the 2010 Arctic Winter Games. He says he was taken aback by how much has changed since then.

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“For us, seeing the massive change in the community from 45,000 people roughly… to 70,000 plus is huge.”

Co-Chair of the 2022 Arctic Winter Games Bid Committee Owen Lewis attributes some of that growth and change to Grande Prairie hosting the games nine years ago. He hopes that if their bid is successful, the effects will continue.

“What we want to do is continue that momentum from the 2010 Games, introduce it to a new generation in 2022 and take that forward.”

The international committee members were welcomed at the Grande Prairie Airport with Indigenous drummers and a prayer. They were then toured around to the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum, Crosslink County Sportsplex, Grande Prairie Regional College, the Montrose Cultural Centre and Art Gallery, and the Community Knowledge Campus. Another highlight was a helicopter tour of the region for the committee to get a better idea of where all the facilities are situated.

“We have tremendous facilities; we know that,” says Lewis, “but what we also have behind that is a tremendous community, and to have that community come out, we know that they’re going to be here for the 2022 games to support that if we’re successful in our bid.”

Grande Prairie is up against Fort McMurray and the Wood Buffalo region for the chance to host the 2022 Games. The committee was in the other community Tuesday and will convene Wednesday to compare note. The decision will have to be approved by the provincial government, but Rodda expects its choice to be announced within two weeks.

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