'Shocked and disappointed': Arctic Winter Games cancelled due to coronavirus concerns

The Whitehorse 2020 Arctic Winter Games have been cancelled due to concerns about novel coronavirus.

“It has been determined that cancelling the 2020 Arctic Winter Games is the most responsible precautionary measure,” reads a statement issued Saturday by the City of Whitehorse, the Yukon government and the competition’s host society.

The Arctic Winter Games are a high-profile sporting competition for northern athletes. The participants come from around the world, including Russia, Greenland, Finland and Norway, as well as Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik, Northwest Territories, northern Alberta and Alaska.

Almost 2,000 athletes, plus coaches, organizers and spectators were expected to be at the Whitehorse games.

Catherine Elliott, Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health, in press conference in Whitehorse on Saturday, described making the recommendation to cancel the Arctic Winter Games as difficult. (Steve Silva/CBC)

“This decision is a direct result of concerns around the spread of COVID-19 and is supported by the Arctic Winter Games International Committee,” the statement reads in part.

The recommendation came from Yukon’s acting chief medical officer of health, Catherine Elliott.

There are no COVID-19 cases in the territory at this time, according to the statement.

‘Shocked and disappointed’

Doug Rentmeister, the chef de mission for Team NT, said he received a call from the Arctic Winter Games International Committee on Saturday morning, before the news release came out.

He said the reaction from coaches, officials and administrators has been “shocked and disappointed.”

However, Rentmeister said he wasn’t completely surprised by the news, given that many athletes are travelling to the games. 

“We’ve got a lot of kids and athletes coming from international destinations and going through many airports to get here. So I could see that happening, but extremely disappointed that it did,” said Rentmeister.

Last week, officials with the Arctic Winter Games said the risk was low and they were taking all necessary precautions to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak at this year’s event in Whitehorse.

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