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Arctic Winter Games kick off in Whitehorse

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The 2012 Arctic Winter Games kicked off Sunday night in Whitehorse to a cheering crowd.

More than 2,000 athletes from across the circumpolar world will compete in more than 20 different sports throughout the week.

The participating teams arrived to the opening ceremonies with energy, chanting their team names and parading into the Canada Games Centre.

For the athletes, the games are a time to celebrate, and even one well-known northern leader got into the spirit.

“I am proud that our Canadian identity embraces Canada’s North, its tradition, its culture and most importantly, its people,” said Nunavut Member of Parliament Leona Aglukkaq.

The crowd re-created the northern lights with flashing pens. After that, came the games’ unique song.

“We wrote it here in Whitehorse, and over the past year it went to every region participating in the Arctic Winter Games. Every region! You guys are all in this thing,” Daniel Ashley, who co-composed the song, told the crowd.

Gerry Thicke, president of the Arctic Winter Games International Committee, told the athletes to have fun.

“It is now up to you to join me and play your part and enjoy the 22nd Arctic Winter Games,” he said.

Winning athletes get to take home an ulu medal, which is in the shape of the traditional Inuit knife. The week will also be filled with cultural events to see and opportunities for athletes to make memories with new and old friends.

The games have been running every two years since 1970. Athletes from Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Alberta, Nunavik in northern Quebec, Alaska, Greenland, traditional Sami lands in northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, and Russia are represented at the games.

The games feature sports such as hockey, soccer and gymnastics, and they also feature traditional Inuit and Dene games like the one-foot high kick, snowsnake and hand games.