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  • Natalie Pietro

We are the people of the North!

We are the people of the North! The chants echoed in unison throughout the arena as the Mat-Su 2024 Arctic Winter Games officially commenced with an inspiring opening ceremony. The Menard Center arena, decked out in vibrant teal, purple, and silver, was packed with enthusiastic spectators.

As the ceremony began, teams from across the Arctic, including the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, Kalaallit Nunaat, Nunavik-Quebec, Northern Alberta, Sápmi, and the host contingent Alaska, paraded into the arena amidst waves of cheering fans, their spirits and determination high.

Following the teams' entrance, the ceremony continued with an opening prayer, invoking blessings for a successful and harmonious event, followed by the playing of the national anthems– each one symbolizing the pride and heritage of the participating countries.

This year's theme song was crafted by none other than the internationally acclaimed rock group, Portugal. The Man, hailing from Wasilla, Alaska. The custom-crafted theme song is called “Runners in the Snow” and totally captures the spirit of the circumpolar north and the overall positive vibes of the 2024 Arctic Winter Games.

Opening Ceremonies festivities continued with vibrant speeches from various leaders, underscoring the importance of friendship, cultural exchange, and fair play. Nancy Dahlstrom, Lt. Governor of Alaska, noted, “It’s not just about sports, it’s about the cultural exchanges, the friendships formed, and shared experiences that transcend borders. The Games are a testament to the spirit of the Arctic North, a spirit of resilience, camaraderie, and mutual respect.”

Musical performances also included a moving traditional dance by Yah Ne Dah Ah School from Chickaloon. Ashley Young, a Tlingit musician, also took to the stage, her soulful voice weaving a tapestry of melodies that clearly resonated with and moved the audience.

Two young tribal members from the Chickaloon village proceeded to ignite the ceremonial torch, symbolizing the eternal flame of hope and solidarity that burns bright throughout the duration of the Games.

With the torch ablaze and the spirit of competition ignited, the Mat-Su 2024 Arctic Winter Games officially began, promising days filled with thrilling athletic feats, cultural exchanges, and unforgettable memories for all. As the Opening Ceremony concluded, I had the privilege of speaking with the parents of an athlete preparing for her second Arctic Winter Games experience. Their pride and excitement was evident as they shared their daughter's journey and the significance of this momentous occasion. Esther Kim said, “we love that the kids get such a wonderful opportunity, it’s great they get to come here and show off what they’ve been working so hard for. It’s really cool for Alaska too so we’re just looking forward to it!” Her daughter, Ruby Kim, age 11, will be competing in Figure Skating later this week.

As the world turns its gaze towards the Arctic, the stage is set for a celebration of sport, unity, and the enduring human spirit. As Amy Spargo, AWG Host Society Chair, stated, “If you are wondering what the future is for the North, look no further than this beautiful sight right before you. We are the people of the North.”


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