Passports, travel plans, final hurdles for AWG Team Nunavik
“We’re a lot more organized than we were for the games in Fairbanks"
Team Nunavik-Québec is in the home stretch of solidifying its 64-person team to compete this March at the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.
The team announced in December that it will participate in six events at this year’s games: badminton, table tennis, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing; Dene games and Arctic sports.
But a seventh unspoken “event” for the team might deserve an honorary mention on that list — logistical hurdles.
The reality of another international AWG — following 2014’s games in Fairbanks, Alaska — is creating challenges for many Nunavik athletes in remote communities to file for passports.
But the team said it’s learned a lot from attending those Alaska games.
“We’re a lot more organized than we were for the games in Fairbanks when it comes to the passport process,” said Team Nunavik-Québec chef de mission Nancianne Grey.
“We lost just under 10 athletes because of the passport business [in Fairbanks].”
And that’s on top of approximately 30 customs issues faced by the team when its members arrived at the United States Customs and Border Protection detachment in Alaska.
This time around, Grey said, the team and athletes are being more proactive.
The campaign began in earnest six months ago with a series of radio announcements suggesting families start filing their passport paperwork immediately.
But in some places even the best of intentions can’t make up for inadequate services.
“We have come across a few holes where at the local government level, they don’t have either the human resource power or the necessary tools to take proper passport photos,” said Grey.
In at least one instance, the team paid for staffers in Salluit to travel to Ivujivik to take passport photos for potential Team Nunavik-Quebec athletes.
“And at the same time they did it for their health card, medical card, because they don’t have those kinds of services in villages like that,” Grey added.
“Infrastructure is not there still in some of the places we would hope they have it.”
The Kativik Regional Government’s recreational department is dedicating several employees in its office to support passport applications for athletes.
Despite the challenges, Grey is confident that everything will be in order before the teams meets in Kuujjuaq to depart for Greenland.
“The only thing I anticipate is a lot of last-minutes passports coming in,” she said.
Grey said “less than 20 passports” for the team are still up in the air.
“We’re at the mercy of Passport Canada right now.”
And the team will be at the mercy of air traffic controllers when they land in Iqaluit from Kuujjuaq on the way to Greenland.
Although Nuuk’s population is nearly double that of Iqaluit at roughly 17,000 people, the city doesn’t have an airstrip large enough for commercial jets to land.
An old U.S. military airfield in Kangerlussuaq — west of Sisimiut and 317 kilometres north of Nuuk — is the only runway in Greenland capable of accommodating commercial jets.
That limitation will force Team Nunavik-Québec athletes to cross Baffin Bay in segments.
“They [Nuuk] can’t receive planes larger than a Dash 8-300, and it can’t take more than 29 passengers,” said Grey.
At least some team members will have to spend most of their travel days between Nuuk and Iqaluit sitting around waiting. And of course, it’s all dependent on weather.
KRG’s recreation department is negotiating with the City of Iqaluit to arrange bus tours and activities for the athletes forced to wait.
Team Nunavik-Québec earned an impressive 20 ulus, or medals, at the AWG in Alaska in 2014.
Approximately 2,000 athletes will compete in this year’s games, representing regions across the circumpolar world.
Watch for upcoming profiles of Team Nunavut and Nunavik athletes in Nunatsiaq News, ahead of the 2016 AWG
The games are scheduled to take place from March 6 to March 11 in Nuuk.
All ice hockey events during the games will be held in Iqaluit.