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Games checklist grows shorter by the day

Amanda Vaughan
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - As of today, it's T-minus 200 days until the start of the Arctic Winter Games.

On March 9, 2008, Yellowknife will be the centre of the Arctic universe for a week, housing athletes, families, volunteers, spectators, media and business people from all over the North.

The host society has five staff members to administrate and co-ordinate the entire show, and Yellowknifer decided to check in with AWG 2008 general manager Dave Hurley for an update.

"The best way for us to describe it is that we are comfortable with where we are at," said Hurley.

The games are currently $642,660 short of their $3.6 million fundraising goal. Hurley said while that number seems large, things are right on track.

"I think, even, we could probably say we are a little bit ahead of schedule compared to past organizations," Hurley said, but he did also mention that comparing 2008 to previous games' fundraising is very difficult, because "every jurisdiction does it differently."

"When you do fundraising, it's like an event, you can see the finish line in front of you, and the last part is always the most difficult, because you have come a long way, and you just have to keep on going," Hurley said.

He also said that there are only a couple more fundraising events scheduled, noting that at this point the plan is primarily to canvas businesses and corporations for donations.

"You have to be optimistic," he said.

After a recent volunteer pep rally, Hurley said the games have a roster of more than 500 helpers. It seems like an impressive number already, but it's only a fraction of the manpower that will be needed to keep the games running smoothly next March.

The volunteer section of the AWG 2008 website states that the games will need approximately 2,500 volunteers all together.

Hurley remains optimistic about the prospects for more help as well.

"People are still thinking the games are next year, when in reality they are less than eight months away," he said. "We are gearing towards getting the bulk of our volunteers in the September to December range, because that's when people can really see the games coming towards them.

"We aren't worried about that situation. Yellowknife has always had a really good reputation in regards to stepping forward for community events."

Hurley said that at last week's Arctic Winter Games pep rally, they had a laptop computer set up for people to sign up, and that people were enlisting throughout the event.

"We've got it on the website, it's really easy for people to sign up;" he said, "they can pick the date they want to do it, and the time they want to do it, the events they want to help with."

He said that it was just a matter of getting the word out to people that all these options are available.

The AWG website is handled by a program designed by Kimik, a Greenland-based software company. It was specifically designed for the Arctic Winter Games before the 2004 games.

"It handles everything from the volunteers to the results and the VIP lists," said Hurley.

He added that he simply "could not explain" how much easier the system made the games' administration.

A quick perusal of the AWG's website has a few indicators of the sheer volume of tasks ahead. With 40 different volunteer committees each taking care of a different aspects of the games such as food service, security, cultural segments, awards, collecting results and medical services.

Each different sport has a committee, and there are eight task categories that a volunteer can perform during the games.

Unique to this year's games is a youth policy, which was recently passed by the board, allowing kids between the ages of 12 and 16 to volunteer.

"A lot of the sports can use the younger kids," said Hurley, adding that the policy opens up the games for a broad portion of the community to participate.

"If you are anywhere from 12 to 100 (years old), then come on down," Hurley said with a chuckle. "Anyone who works more than three shifts, or 12 hours, will be getting a very good quality AWG volunteer jacket.

"We want to show the volunteers our appreciation, because you just can't run these games without them." He also said there will a "very big" volunteer appreciation dinner held some time after the games are over.

The city's venues are on schedule, according to community services program manager Brian Kelln.

"We will be using all of the high school's gyms for various purposes," he said, adding that the gyms are getting their routine summer maintenance, while new clocks and fresh varnish are going in some.

According to Kelln, the Yk arena is going to be used as a volleyball venue, which requires a change of flooring.

"We have a floor from Alberta, and we had it in during the summer for the Western Canada Games teams to use for a training camp," he said.

Kelln also said that the Olympic arena at the Multi-plex will be the site of the opening ceremonies. Minor adjustments will be made there, such as sound system improvements, and being able to lift the netting around the arena for better viewing. Another preparation involved a little help from the Edmonton Oilers.

"They have a reputation for having the best ice in the NHL," Kelln said, explaining that the team's ice maker came up and showed the folks at the Multi-plex how to put down good ice, and fast.

Some of the outdoor events will be happening at the Yellowknife golf course, and that Bristol Pit will be converted into a snowboard course, but neither of those areas can be altered until the snow falls, Kelln said.

The Yellowknife Ski Club will be hosting the cross-country events, and the games will be nothing new for the ski club, according to Kelln

"They have held major events several times before, and they have one of the best cross-country ski sites in the Canada," he said, "they know how to put on a big competition."

Hurley also said that the lack of a field house isn't going to hurt the games at all.

"We never planned to have the field house. We worked around it from day one," he said. "If it had happened, that would have been great for the games, but we never counted on it, we just couldn't."

Kelln said that after two years of preparation, it's now getting close enough that he and other city employees involved are getting excited.

"The next six months are just going to blow by," he said.