Yukon says yes to hosting 2026 Arctic Winter Games

Team Yukon at the opening ceremonies of this 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Alberta, earlier this year. The Yukon government has decided to throw its support behind a plan for Whitehorse to host the event in 2026. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

The Yukon government has thrown its support behind a bid to bring the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) back to Whitehorse in 2026.

The territory on Thursday said it would provide $4 million in cash to help fund the games, along with about $350,000 worth of in-kind donations. The cost of the event is estimated to be about $9.55 million.

The Games’ international committee has been desperately looking for a host city for the 2026 event. Russia was scheduled to host that year, but the committee decided last year to suspend that country from hosting because of the war in Ukraine.

“The Government of Yukon strongly condemns Russia’s actions in Ukraine and is pleased to be in a position to step up and support circumpolar athletes in a time of global crisis,” reads a news release from the Yukon government on Thursday.

The AWG committee first asked the Northwest Territories if it would host in 2026, but the territory declined. N.W.T. is scheduled to host in 2028.

The committee then asked the Yukon government in June.

Whitehorse city council discussed the issue earlier this month, on the assumption that if Yukon were to play host, Whitehorse was the only place to do it.

Unworn Arctic Winter Games volunteer jackets in Whitehorse in 2020. The city was all set to host the event that year before it was cancelled at the last minute amid growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

City staff recommended council request $4 million from the Yukon government, saying that would have to be secured by July 28 in order to accept the 2026 hosting gig. The deadline to begin negotiations with the games committee is July 31.

Speaking on Thursday, Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott called the territory’s financial support the “key piece” to make it possible for Whitehorse to host.

“We’re very pleased and very appreciative of the Yukon government coming through with this commitment,” Cabott said.

The mayor said the city would be chipping in about $250,000 in cash, along with another roughly half a million dollars’ worth of in-kind donations. The federal government is expected to put in about $1.5 million, Cabott said, leaving about $3 million to raise through sponsorships and other in-kind donations.

“So there’s work to be done in order to make these games happen,” she said.

Richard Mostyn, Yukon’s minister of Community Services, said he’s confident that Yukon businesses will come through with that additional support.

No new infrastructure is needed to host the 2026 games, said Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

“We have a lot of very generous local businesses in the Yukon who come forward in the past and and we have no reason to suspect that won’t be the case again,” he said.

No new infrastructure is needed to host these games, Mostyn said. That’s unlike the 2027 Canada Winter Games, which was expected to come to Whitehorse until the bid fell apart last year amid questions of who would pay the many millions of dollars needed for new infrastructure.

Whitehorse last hosted the Arctic Winter Games in 2012. The city was scheduled to host again in 2020, but the event was canned at the last minute as concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic were quickly growing.

With files from Leslie Amminson

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Arctic Winter Games committee looks to Yukon as potential host in 2026, CBC News

Finland: Ice fishing World Championships latest in Finnish series of odd sports events, Yle News

United States: Veteran musher Brent Sass wins Yukon Quest 300, CBC News

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