Arctic Winter Games


The double high kick
Michael Swan, via Flickr

The Arctic Winter Games celebrate traditional northern sports and culture. Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma look at the games and the athletes.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight, I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Two women from northern Canada are making this music. It is a traditional singing skill called throat singing. The women stand very near to each other. They put their faces close together and make noises from inside their necks. This is more than an interesting way of making music. It is also a game. This game is now part of an official competition in the far North of the world – the Arctic.

Voice 2 

The Arctic is a region that includes several countries including parts of Russia, Greenland, Canada, the United States, and Scandinavia. It is a cold place, with lots of ice and snow. During the winter season it may be too cold to even go outside. So, in the past, the native people played games and practiced skills such as throat singing. These activities filled the long, cold winter days. These games also helped their bodies and minds to stay strong. Have you ever heard of the ear pull? Or the high-kick? Have you ever tried the knuckle hop? Now, these traditional games are an important part of an international sports competition. Today’s Spotlight is on the Arctic Winter Games.

Voice 1 

In 1967, a Canadian named Cal Miller was at the Winter Olympics. The Olympics are large international sporting competitions held every four years. Miller noticed that people from the North of Canada did not win many competitions. He had the idea to make a different competition. These games would be for people who lived in the Arctic. They would provide social exchange. They would also concentrate on the cultures of the North.

Voice 2 

The Arctic Winter Games began in 1970. Since then, the games are held in a different city every two years. People come from countries throughout the Arctic. Many of these Northern people have a common history. For example, have you ever heard of the Sami people? They live in the countries of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. The Sami also share many traditional customs with other people groups from the Arctic such as people from Yamal in Russia or the Inuit from Canada. The Arctic Games are one place they can celebrate their shared history.

Voice 1 

The logo, or official symbol, of the Arctic Games shows the goals of the games. The logo has three rings that create one shape together. The three rings symbolize sporting competition, cultural performance, and social exchange.

Voice 2 

Some of the competitions at the Arctic Winter Games are modern sports such as ice hockey or badminton. People play these sports in many places. But many of the sports at the Arctic Games are traditional games. The news organization PBS made a documentary film about the Games. In it, an Alaskan elder explains why these traditional games are important:

Voice 3 

“The games you play are given to you so that you fully know who you are inside. The Inupiaq Tribe has a direct link to the land we live in. Our grandparents made these games for a purpose.”

Voice 1 

Each traditional game has its own purpose. One game is called the ear pull. In this sport, two people stand with their faces close to each other. They tie a stretchy elastic string between their two heads. It reaches around both people’s ears on one side. Then the athletes must try to pull the other person over with their neck strength. It can be very painful! Eddie Lennox is from Inuvik in Canada. He told the CBC news organization why people play this game:

Voice 4 

“A lot of people think, well, it is just a painful game. But there is a reason behind it. If you can stand a little pain, you just might save your life. All these games keep every muscle in your body strong for when you need it. So when you are out hunting and you come into a dangerous area you are ready for it. If you have to jump, you can jump far.”

Voice 2 

Many traditional Northern games involve jumping. One jumping game is the high-kick. To play this game, people hang a small object from a thin rope high in air. The athletes then must kick the object with one, or even two, feet. The object lifts higher and higher into the air. The winner is the person who can kick the highest object. This requires a lot of strength and training. The high-kick has another purpose too. In the past it was a way to signal to people far away.

Voice 1 

Winners in the Arctic Winter Games receive a special medal to hang around their necks. The medals are in the shape of an ulu. This is a traditional knife used in northern parts of the world. It looks like a very wide triangle, with a large base. Athletes win a gold ulu for first place, a silver ulu for second and bronze for third.

Voice 2 

Besides sporting competition the Arctic games also include the exchange of culture. The games also have other social events. At these events, people share their traditional dances, music, and clothing. The games keep cultural tradition interesting for young people in the North. Christina Bonnetrouge is 16 years old. She lives in the NorthWest Territories of Canada. She will play the racquet sport badminton at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games. She told Spotlight:

Voice 5 

“I think the games are special because people come from different places in the north to compete in a sport. I look forward to meeting new people!”

Voice 1 

The Arctic Winter Games are also a way for people who live in the south to learn more about northern culture. Most people cannot travel to the games, but they can watch them on television or the internet. Maybe people farther south will also want to try sports such as the high-kick or the ear-pull! These sports are special but the athletes in the Arctic Winter Games are like any other athletes. They work very hard preparing for competition. They hope to show off their skills and make their people proud. And when they play traditional sports, they honour their culture and their ancestors.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Arctic Winter Games.”

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What cultural traditions are important to you and your family? Do you try to keep traditions from your culture?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
choibounge
said on April 29, 2014

Very nice, I agree with these sports to unite people, and keep alive the culture of the Arctic