WEIO cancels 2020 Games
Another summer event has fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the 2020 World Eskimo Indian Olympic Games are cancelled, the board announced Tuesday.
What would have been the 60th consecutive WEIO Games, the annual celebration of indigenous cultures of Alaska, the Americas and the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar north, are now off the table, with reasons Gina Kalloch, Board Chair of WEIO, says are out of their control.
"The funding sources for our event have dried up and the borough could not really guarantee more than two weeks at a time what was available as far as a venue is concerned," said Kalloch. "The ability for our participants to travel, the economy being in the low point as it is, there were just too many variables that we could not say at this point, that is was going to be possible."
This year's games were scheduled for July 15-18 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Beyond logistics and finances, the health and safety of those involved with the games were a driving decision in the cancellation.
"The safety of the the participants, particularly our elders and the children, and the safety of our visitors, have to be at the forefront of any decision we make and it was just not a guarantee that we could do it safely." added Kalloch.
The WEIO games are much more than the games. The celebration also involves the performance of traditional songs and dance, the selling of crafts and goods, and regalia contests. WEIO is looking into ways to continue some of these traditions on a virtual platform.
"Right now the board is looking into the possibility of doing something online where we would invite participants to join us virtually," Kalloch said. "We are looking at whether or not we would be able to do that and word will be out as soon as we decide what we are going to do going forward."
WEIO attracts thousands of competitors and participants from all over Alaska and the Yukon. Beyond the winners of the nearly 20 events that take place over the games, WEIO offered an opportunity to gather annually at one central location.
"We always tend to refer it to as a homecoming or a family reunion," said Kalloch. "People come once a year, they see each other, they celebrate together, they compete with each other, they renew friendships, they make new friends, and it is always been like a big family reunion."
Kalloch says she hopes the absence of the 2020 games will make the 2021 celebration even greater.