Home Rule children have now grown up and are strong and are participating in world championships. In Greenland’s fight for international recognition, sports has served as a good tool. All of Greenland watches television whenever Greenland, participating in world championships, is broadcast directly into the living rooms of our stretched out island. And, the world press sets its focus on the land with the small population competing against the great nations. In various connections, sport has brought focus to bear on Greenland and sportsmen play more or less conscious roles as ambassadors.
However, the simple start in 1953, when the Greenland Sports Association was established, was more modest. Greenlandic championships in soccer were held annually when the various teams sailed in smaller boats – at a time when safety at sea was not considered a high priority – and a little dinghy was the only lifeboat available.
The development of soccer fields and sports halls did not consider athletics. Many sports clubs enjoyed athletics during training programs in the summers of the 50s and 60s. Several athletic events were held – especially in Nuuk which, as a center for educational institutions, naturally gathered youth from the entire coast. However, they remained local competitions. The goal of training in the different sports has always been aimed at the Greenlandic championship which was often held during Easter in order to avoid the players having to loose salary. Alpine and cross country skiers had, however, already participated in Nordic competitions in the 50s when the first participants sailed across the Atlantic and then flew to Norway already the day after arriving in Copenhagen.
Greenlandic students have also participated in the Danish championships in diverse ski disciplines and have for many years also played on the Danish national teams. The new generation of skiers is still involved here.
The Greenlandic handball team has been the flagship for establishing sports participation on the international plane and has placed intense focus on Greenland. In 1998, Greenland’s Handball Association (GHF), was given independent membership status by the International Handball Association (IHF).
The Greenlandic men’s team joined in the world championships in France in 2001, when Cuba’s economic crisis created a cancellation at the last moment.
It was the first direct transmission on television from a world championship final with Greenland participating. The streets were empty during the games. And, what a debut.
Greenland played against Croatia in the first round and was only behind by two points at the beginning of the second half. But, the Croatians tightened their grip and won the game by a sure margin 25 to 15. The event was not reduced in importance by Croatia being crowned world champions in Portugal in 2003, where several players from the world championships in France participated.
Greenland has also participated in the world championship in badminton doubles: the first time in Spain in 2001 and then again in 2003 in Holland. Greenland is now placed in group 6 (out of 7) where large countries such as China and Denmark are placed in group 1.
Tae Kwon Do has run with the best results with a bronze in the European grand championships in 2003, where Angutinnguaq Tittussen and Lauritz Heilmann won the bronze in free fighting and “tul” style demonstrations. Tae Kwon Do sportsmen have also won several medals in the world championships.
Several more special clubs are now working to be accepted by the international association. Ski sharpshooters in the biathlon have recently been accepted by the international association and can thus represent the Greenlandic flag in world championships.
Unfortunately, there are only long term possibilities for Greenland’s acceptance into the international soccer association FIFA. The final round in Greenland’s final cup in soccer takes place one week after a series of qualifications rounds just before the tour and the whole tour here takes place on sand and gravel fields. The largest event in terms of number of participants is the Arctic forum for winter games, Arctic Winter Games 2002, which was for the first time ever held in Greenland when Nuuk and Iqaluit, Nunavut both hosted in collaboration.
Sports folk, media folk, participants in the cultural arrangements and representative of the various organizations from Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland gathered in both Nuuk and Iqaluit.
That week in the middle of March, 2002, is still remembered as an event which for many years to come will be remembered with delight. Skepticism that Greenland would be able to hold so large an event dependent on a large volunteer corps was wiped away and the reward was the smiles of the guests and the spontaneous “Thank you Greenland!” yelled during the closing ceremonies outside the sports hall Inussivik which was inaugurated in connection with the Arctic Winter Games.
Greenland’s acceptance by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is yet a long way off even though Greenland has established its own Olympic committee consisting of Greenland’s Sports Association. However, IOC only approves states as members. Greenland is now on the way into an exciting period where the debate on independence is in its beginning phase. Who knows if the spin-off prize might be acceptance as an independent member of IOC?