The Arctic Winter Games is going to Russia.

The games’ international committee announced in a news release Friday that the Yamal-Nenets contingent is slated to host the games in 2026. Yamal-Nenets is in northwestern Siberia, central Russia, with a significant Indigenous population.

The Northern Russian region has been participating in the Arctic Winter Games — an event for young northern athletes — since 2004, but has never hosted.

The move could also open up the games to other participants in Europe as Yamal’s governor has welcomed Iceland to a Yamal games. The final bid package is pending receipt and approval from Yamal-Nenets Department for International and External Economic Relations.

The games were slated for Whitehorse this year, but were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wood Buffalo, Alta., will host in 2022.

The N.W.T. was a host in 2018 and has hosted the games on six other occasions.

The games will be held in Alaska in 2024, in a city yet to be determined.

“We are extremely pleased to be heading back to Alaska for the 2024 games and also enthusiastic about the prospect of adding Yamal-Nenets to the hosting rotation thereby providing new and exciting sport and cultural opportunities for the Arctic Winter Games participants” said John Rodda, vice president of the international committee, in a statement.

Team Yukon met up for a celebration in Whitehorse on March 15, after the games were cancelled due to COVID-19. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

The international committee says it has also committed to looking into new potential host sites within its permanent member jurisdictions. It is also looking to establish a list of hosting standards that are “considered flexible to accommodate limitations in small host communities.”

The Arctic Winter Games is the largest and most significant multi-sport cultural event in the circumpolar North, the release says.

The games are a combination of athletic competition along with cultural and social exchanges in the host community and among participants.

The permanent members of the Arctic Winter Games include Alaska, Alberta North, Greenland, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon, while guest members are from Nunavik Quebec, Yamal and Sapmi.

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