A sporting polar year ahead | Polarjournal

From the Arctic Games to the Southern Games, here’s a look back at the competitions that took place in 2023 and will resume next year in a highly sporting year with the arrival of the Olympic Games.

Bench press, treadmill, ice hockey – 2024 will take on a particularly sporting flavour with the Olympic Games in Paris. Even though the flame from Athens will reach Marseille by sea, and even though the Winter Olympics will not be held until the following year, the world will not be free from sporting events with a “polar spirit”. To ensure that we move towards 2024 smoothly, let’s take a look north and south to 2023, with the Arctic Games and the Southern Games.

The spirit of the Arctic Games reflects the “Arctic way of life”, “solidarity” and “mutual aid”, said sports historian Julien Fuchs, who studies the games, last January. To him, these are particularly necessary values in these cold, isolated regions. A competition not without fair play, of course, or abstraction, when you see freediving in basins and paper airplane throwing on the list of disciplines at the Southern Games. This competition, organized at the five French Antarctic stations, is “a reflection of the Antarctic Treaty”, as Dr. Christophe Carraut reminded us in July. Dr. Carraut relaunched and updated the Australian Games in 2017, and they have been constantly evolving ever since, thanks to the rotating presidency.

Next year, the Arctic Games will be held in Mat-Su Valley, Alaska, from March 10 to 16, after taking place in Fort McMurray, Alberta, in Canada from January 29 to February 4 this year. Communities from the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Northern Alberta, Nunavut, Nunavik, Kalaallit Nunaat and Sapmi will be taking part. As last year, the Russian communities of the Yamal Peninsula will be absent from the circumpolar event. In addition to modern games such as biathlon, the program includes Dene games – for example, duels originally fought in the confines of igloos – as well as head-pulling and finger-pulling.

On the other side of the globe, the French stations will be holding games organised by the winner of the 2023 edition, the station on Amsterdam Island, which had its “little moment of euphoria”. Perhaps the Paris Olympics will galvanise the Southern Games, and they will once again enjoy an international boost as they did in 2017 when Chile took part. Or maybe the Franco-Italian base at Concordia will win its first victory despite the oxygen depletion faced by the athletes at 3,000 metres altitude. Perhaps they will be able to lift the penguin-head trophy that travels from station to station… after the young Arctic Games athletes (aged between 12 and 20) have brandished the trophy in the shape of a narwhal’s tusk.

This competition in the colors of the Arctic is not just about rankings and winning. Participants are rewarded for fair play, encouragement of their fellow competitors and the incorporation of cultural symbols in their sportswear. On both sides of the poles, the proverb ” Participation is everything” is all the more true as the hardest part is getting there.

Camille Lin, PolarJournal

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