Opening ceremonies praise spirit of the North, competition
March 05, 2012
The Canada Games Centre was rife with energy, passion and celebration on Sunday night.
Nearly two thousand athletes filed into the Centre, which was transformed from the athletics complex into “Club Yukon,” for the Arctic Winter Games Opening Ceremony.
Each contingent cheered the other on and exchanged high-fives and embraces as they made their way inside the venue.
If this was the start of a weeklong competitive athletics tournament, you couldn’t tell.
The teams were welcoming, hopeful, and friendly. On the eve of the first full day of competition, the athletes were already engaged in fair play and team spirit.
The event was at full capacity as local fans, parents, and volunteers witnessed the night’s theatrics.
After each contingent had made their way across the stage, the national anthem from each nation was played.
For the Canadian anthem, local speed skater Heather Clarke stood proudly on stage, holding the national flag.
Clarke was also named the flag bearer for the Yukon.
“I was so proud,” she told the ULU news, the Arctic Winter Games publication. “I was stoked to represent the Yukon. It was awesome.”
The raucous crowd fell silent for each anthem before erupting back into waves of cheering.
The athletes and the crowd were entertained by local musicians Zipline, Electric Cheese and 12-year-old Madison Dixon, who played for the crowd as the official Arctic Winter Games flag was raised behind her.
“Whitehorse is ready to welcome all of our circumpolar friends to share in the joy of the Games,” said Gerry Thick, President of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee.
“For many of these athletes these Games will be a special experience, where they come together to compete and also share and participate in fair play.”
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq addressed the crowd and noted the energy in the room.
“There is so much excitement here today,” she said. “We have all gathered from around the circumpolar world to celebrate our unique Northern heritage and traditions in the spectacle of sport and culture. I know that the games will deliver thrilling competition and a celebration of visual art and athletics.
“Each of you should be celebrating now for the tremendous dedication that has lead you here today.”
Madison Logan, a member of the Yukon junior female hockey team took the athletes oath in front of the crowd.
“In the name of all participants, I pledge to embrace the Arctic Winter Games in the spirit of fair play and cultural exchange, respecting the traditions that govern them and celebrating the honour and excellence of our teams,” she said.
Leading up to the Games, the highly anticipated song relay was an oft-discussed item. On Sunday night, Daniel Ashley, who composed the original song, finally revealed the project.
The song began in Whitehorse and then made its way to each contingent, where representatives added to the song and filmed video that captured the essence of their communities.
“One year ago today a very special project began,” Ashley said. “And now, today, you guys will be the first to see it.”
The song and video was broadcast across the arena and well received with each contingent cheering loudly when they made their appearance on the big screen.
The video captured the athletes in their home-setting and the images served as bridge to connect the shared Northern settings.
The crowd was also entertained by a performance from the Yukon Urban Dance Ensemble, which intensified the energy in the building and drew a favourabe reaction from the athletes as many joined in on the dancing.
At the peak of the energy, Thick announced, “I officially declare the 2012 Arctic Winter Games open.” A stream of confetti was shot into the air and the crowd continued to cheer wildly.
The athletes then began to file out of the building and retreat back to their buses, eager to get a full night’s sleep with a much-anticipated week of activity awaiting them.