Putting best foot forward

Peninsula rolls out red carpet to win Arctic Winter Games' bid

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2003

Today's the day.

The six-member Arctic Winter Games Site Committee will visit the Kenai Peninsula today to evaluate the community's ability to host the 2006 games. The site visit is the only time during the selection process that the committee will visit the area, making the day a crucial one in the ongoing effort to bring the games to the peninsula.

According to bid coordinator Jack Brown, the committee will be looking at numerous aspects of the area, including athlete housing, sports facilities and community support.

"They're going to be gauging our ability to put on the games," Brown said Tues-day.

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.

Brown said bid organizers have a full day of tours, cultural events and inspections planned for the committee.

Most important, he said, will be to demonstrate to the committee that the peninsula has top-notch facilities for taking care of the 2,000 athletes from Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberian Russia expected to participate.

"Care and comfort for the athletes, that's going to be first and foremost," Brown said.

He said months of planning have gone into making sure the athletes will be provided the best housing, transportation and meal service possible. As part of the site visit, the inspection committee will be taken to schools where athletes will be housed and given meals representative of the food athletes will eat.

"We're going to be giving them a sample meal, show them a typical room," Brown said. "I think they're going to really like our facilities' capabilities."

The committee arrives in Kenai at 10:15 a.m. From the Kenai airport, they'll travel by bus to Kenai Central High School, where a community welcoming ceremony will be held at 10:45 a.m. Kenai Mayor John Williams said the ceremony will give committee members a taste of just how much the area supports the games.

"We're planning a red carpet welcome for these folks the likes that Kenai has never seen before," Williams said in a press release issued Tuesday.

Brown said he expects as many as 1,000 supporters and volunteers to show up at the Renee C. Henderson auditorium to give the committee a warm reception.

"Our bid committee is volunteer-driven," Brown said. "The commitment from the community is going to be evident in the number of volunteers."

After the welcoming ceremony, the committee will spend the rest of the day on a whirlwind tour of area facilities, including the Challenger Learning Center, local schools, the Soldotna Sports Center and the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. At the different venues they'll hear presentations on the various aspects of the peninsula's preparation -- from transportation to security.

"They're going to know a heck of a lot about our area and what we can do," Brown said.

Making a good impression is important, as competition for the 2006 bid is tight, with Fairbanks and Juneau also sponsoring bids to host the games. The committee began inspections in Fairbanks Thursday. A final decision on where the games will be held is expected to be announced next month.

2006 will mark the fifth time the games have been held in Alaska since they began in 1970. The games were previously held in Fairbanks in 1982 and 1988. The peninsula has never hosted the games.

According to Brown, he's optimistic that today's bid presentation will convince the committee to bring the games to Southcentral Alaska.

"We're pumped up about this," he said. "We want the games."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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