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Fairbanks Airport Bustles With Athletes, Other Visitors Arriving for Arctic Winter Games

Melissa Osborn/Fairbanks International Airport

Hundreds of athletes from around the circumpolar north began arriving Friday at Fairbanks International Airport for the Arctic Winter Games. KUAC’s Tim Ellis was there for the welcoming reception, and has this report.

The big Air Greenland jetliner touched down just after noon Friday, beginning a procession of aircraft that’ll be continue through today.

Airport spokeswoman Melissa Osborne was out on the tarmac to watch the Airbus 330 set down. She says airport staff are hustling to accommodate the additional air traffic bringing some 2,000 athletes into town, and 1,500 or so fans, VIPs and others.

“There’s significantly greater amount of traffic – lots more,” she said.

So much so that Osborne recommends anyone departing from Fairbanks International for spring break or whatever should get to the airport even earlier than they otherwise would.

“The airlines typically recommend if you’re going through security screening that you arrive two hours prior to your flight,” she said. “We’re recommending that is an absolute minimum for the next week, just because of the number of flights that we have. We have a lot of foreign visitors who may or may not speak English well. So it may take a little extra time to get through the screening line because it may move a little bit slower.”

Credit Melissa Osborn/Fairbanks International Airport
Volunteers with the Fairbanks Arctic Winter Games Host Society prepare to greet athletes and other visitors after they clear Customs.

Today, like Friday, the many volunteers recruited by the Fairbanks Arctic Winter Games Host Society, along with musicians from the Fairbanks Arts Association, will again be there to welcome the visitors – and transform the airport’s baggage area into a venue for a reception that resembled a sort of pep rally and mini-Mardi Gras party.

The hoopla seemed to surprise members of Team Greenland and Team Sapmi, the latter from northern Scandinavia. The first to pass through the gauntlet of well-wishers was a senior member of the games’ International Committee.

“My name is Mikael Kristensen, and I’m from Greenland,” he said.  “I’m a director of the International Committee for Greenland.”

Most of the athletes haven’t been to the Golden Heart City. But for Christensen, it’s somewhat familiar territory.

“I’ve been here a couple of times before,” he said, “and I love being here.”

Later Friday, Team Yamal flew in from Russia. And the first of several charter flights for the big Northwest Territories contingent

Today, the rest of the Canadians will arrive, beginning with Team Nunavut – with their dog team.

Team Yukon will be bringing in a huge contingent around midday, followed by Team Alberta-North and Team Nunavik-Quebec.

The games will begin Sunday with round-robin curling matches at the Fairbanks Curling Club, and some indoor soccer matches at the UAF Rec Center.

Opening Ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Carlson Center.

You can find out more about Arctic Winter Games by going online to

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Greenland International Committee Member Mikael Kristensen.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.