A contingent of Alaskans is travelling to Greenland to participate in the Arctic Winter Games. Alaska’s is one of 9 regional teams descending on the northern nation’s capital of Nuuk for next week’s games. The remote arctic city is going all out to host them.
Nuuk, Greenland’s has 17 thousand residents, and a lot of them are involved in putting on the 2016 Arctic Winter Games.
“Four out of five people in Nuuk are involved in the games, either as a volunteer or as an employee,” said Piplauk Lind, an Arctic Winter Games logistics assistant in Nuuk.
Lind is frank when asked about the challenge of hosting the games.
“I think the shortest way to answer that question is saying overwhelming,” Lind said.
Lind said Nuuk is drawing on experience from previously hosting the biennial games in 2002, adding that getting ready for the influx of several thousand people in the remote arctic city presents some obvious needs.
“We’ve had to import a bunch of containers, toilets and showers for all the participants and a bunch of other stuff of that kind.,” said Lind.
Lind says local schools will house athletes and other existing facilities will provide venues for 14 AWG sports, but hockey will be played a 2 hour flight away on rinks in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She says challenges aside, Nuuk is excited to host the games.
“The Arctic Winter Games are on everyone’s list in Nuuk and everyone is counting down,” Lind said. “We have volunteers in the city center. There’s a countdown clock telling down to seconds how much time is left until the opening ceremony starts.”
Getting to Nuuk in time for Sunday’s opening ceremony involves a lot of air travel for far away teams like Alaska’s. Team Alaska co-director Kathleen Rehm says transporting Alaska’s 300 participants to Nuuk is complicated by the city’s small size.
“The airport in Nuuk is unable to hold large passenger planes so you have to take multi-leg journeys,” said Rehm. “It’s going to be a huge adventure for these young athletes.”
Arctic Winter Games typically attract athlete’s families and friends, but Rehm says access to Greenland during the games is very limited, and it’s been tough for spectators to book a trip.
“Those that were successful, they found their airline tickets months ago,” Rehm said. “And it’s been a popular event so the tickets have sold out.”
Rehm adds that the journey is expensive: about 4 thousand dollars per person for Team Alaska, noting that a state grant reduces what athletes pay. The 2016 Arctic Winter games run March 6th through the 11th.