Nunavut athletes invited to Arctic Games in Russia

Athletes from Iqaluit and Pangnirtung could soon be heading to the Beringia Arctic Games in Chukotka in Russia’s Far East.
A festival of Arctic sports is held each year in Chukotka, Russia, but 2014 could be the biggest ever, with invitations out to youth around the circumpolar world. 'We'll have games from all different Arctic people and the format is very much that of a festival,' says organizer Mille Porsild. (Courtesy Mille Porsild)

Athletes from Nunavut and across the circumpolar region could soon compete in Russia.

The country will hold the first ever Beringia Arctic Games July 19 to 21, in the Chukotka administrative district, which occupies Russia’s most northeastern point near Alaska.

"We need to basically follow the old traditions of how Arctic games are held and the reason for why they are held, which is to bring all people together," says Mille Porsild, one of the event's organizers.

Chukotka holds a similar event every year, but this year would be the largest. Events will include Inuit games like the knuckle hop, the one-arm reach, the arm pull and the high kick.

"We'll have games from all different Arctic people and the format is very much that of a festival," Porsild says.  

Invitations are out to young people in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Island, Norway and Sweden, as well as people in Nunavut.

Iqaluit's Johnny Issaluk, a long-time Inuit games athlete, plans to attend.

Cathy Lee, who worked and lived in Pangnirtung for many years, is leading the charge to put a Nunavut team together. She's looking for youth, aged 14 and older, from Pangnirtung and Iqaluit, who have valid Canadian passports.

Lee says events like this are important for circumpolar youth.  

"To provide a forum for youth to come together from different nations, to meet each other, and just to share about themselves as indigenous people."

There is still a lot of fundraising to be done in a short period, as Nunavut participants need to raise enough money to get to Nome, Alaska. Any expenses they incur after that point will be covered.

The event is being funded by the Department of Sport and Tourism of Chukotka and other sponsors.