T-minus 48 hours and counting

by James McCarthy- March 15, 2018

“It’s coming together nicely.”
Those were the words of Greg Rowe, president of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games host society on Wednesday.

The ice surface at the new Hay River Arena gets a once-over from some employees earlier this month. The arena officially opened for business this past Tuesday, meaning it will play host to the 2018 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremonies on Sunday evening. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The curtain is about to rise on the big show on Sunday with the opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. at the new Hay River Arena, which opened for business officially this past Tuesday.

Rowe said it wasn’t too stressful waiting for the keys to be turned over.

“It would have been nice to be in there sooner, but we were well-informed about what was going on and there was never any emergency,” he said. “There were some issues in terms of compliance with the Fire Marshal’s Office, but it got solved. It’s a fantastic building, stunning really, and all of that outweighs the concerns we had. This is going to be a big legacy item for the kids.”

With the arena headaches out of the way, it’s all about making sure the small things are in place by the time everyone starts arriving and Rowe has had some help to make sure everyone stays as relaxed as possible.

“Marion Conibear has kept us all grounded,” said Rowe. “She has plenty of experience in organizing and she’s been great. Anything can happen, of course – we all remember the Georgian bobsledder that was killed in the luge in 2010 right before the start of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We all hope nothing like that happens here and we’ve gone through all sorts of scenarios, but it’s good that we have someone like Marion to make sure everything is proceeding.”

There are still some areas where the resources need to be shored up, including in food and janitorial, and Rowe said some people have been asked to help out in those areas.

Access control, or security, is another area where a bit of help is needed, he added.

“That’s where people are checking accreditation and bags and making sure people are going where they’re supposed to go,” he said.

The weather has been a bit warmer over the past little while and that’s meant some melt in some of the competition areas.

Rowe said the organizers of the snowboard park in Fort Smith have asked for for a bit of work to be done to make the course competition-ready, but there’s a contingency plan in place in case Mother Nature really plays havoc with things.

“It’s supposed to cool off next week so that should help,” he said. “We probably won’t see anything like we did in Greenland with all of the snow, but there is a chance of flurries in the middle of the week and we can deal with that. There is an allotment for bad weather and we can shorten events based on the forecast if we have to.”

The excitement in Hay River is obvious now, said Rowe, and the anxiety of how it’s all going to play out is all that’s left.

“I think I’ll have to compose myself when the opening ceremonies start,” he said. “I can remember in 2003 when we came into the old arena on a Bombardier to announce our bid for 2008. We didn’t get it then, but it’s been a long time coming and we showed the (Arctic Winter Games) international committee that we can do it. There’s going to be challenges, but we’ll be able to adapt with some creative thinking and I think we’ll pull off something spectacular. To me, that’s the real legacy.”

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