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Committee tours Alaska cities vying for Arctic games

Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Competition is heating up among Alaska communities hoping to host the Arctic Winter Games in 2006.

The Arctic Winter Games International Committee will tour Fairbanks, Kenai and Juneau this week. The six-member committee begins its visit in Fairbanks Thursday. The final decision on where the games will be held is expected to be announced next month.

The biennial sports competition involves about 1,500 young athletes from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberian Russia.

The games can give an economic boost of $1 million to $3 million to the local communities that host them. It also provides an opportunity for local athletes to compete on their home turf.

The 2006 games will mark the fifth time that the games have been held in Alaska since they began in 1970. The games were held in Fairbanks in 1982 and 1988.

''We're pulling out all of the stops to get this bid,'' said Rick Solie, a main architect of Fairbanks' proposal. ''What we've got going for us is better facilities, superior organizations and a track record.''

Solie spoke at a planning meeting for the committee's visit with about 30 local business and civic leaders Tuesday.

After the six members of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee arrive, they'll be given at a luncheon, taken up in a helicopter for a bird's-eye tour of Fairbanks facilities and hosted at a public reception at 4:45 p.m. at the Carlson Center where fireworks are planned.

Local supporters will don bright yellow pullovers with Arctic Winter Games 2006 Fairbanks emblems sewed on.

Fairbanks is offering to provide facilities, athletes' accommodations, meals, transportation and referees for the events. The Games' anticipated budget is $2.4 million, much of which would come from corporate sponsors, the state and local governments, Solie said.

Karl Kassel, acting director of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Parks and Recreation, said the last time the Games were here, in 1988, things went pretty well, except for one thing. Arctic Winter Games officials remarked on scant communitywide support.

''We've got to convince them that they're the biggest show in town,'' he said.

Meanwhile, organizers in the Kenai Peninsula Borough have been recruiting volunteers to show the committee there is strong community support for the games there.

Jack Brown, bid coordinator for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said more than 2,000 volunteers have signed up to support the effort.

The games have never been held on the Kenai Peninsula.

''The people of the Kenai peninsula are dedicated to brining this legacy event to our community. Thousands of volunteer hours have already gone into preparing our bid proposal, which has focused on the care and comfort of the athletes,'' said Borough mayor Dale Bagley.

The committee is due to arrive in Kenai on Friday.

The Games include about 20 events, including basketball, mushing, a snowshoe biathlon, badminton, indoor soccer, skiing, speed skating, wrestling and snowboarding, to name a few. The event is touted by organizers as the northern circumpolar region's premier multi-sport and cultural event for youth.

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