Global Warming and its impact on North American Team Handball

Will melting icebergs result in Greenland participating in the PANAM Games?

Last week I heard several stories on National Public Radio (NPR) concerning the Arctic region.  A couple of stories on Greenland highlighted how the warmer temperatures there are making it easier to explore and potentially extract natural gas and oil.  The stories go on to highlight that dividing up the income from mineral wealth amongst a population of only 56,000 people could make Greenland a very wealthy country.  Wealthy enough so that it would no longer feel any need for Danish subsidies and could become a fully independent nation.  Hence, the title of this story.

Back at the 2007 World Championships in Germany I was first introduced to Greenland Handball and its passionate fans.  For a nation that small (population wise) to play some pretty respectable matches against much larger nations was quite a story.  Long time readers will also remember how later that year the Pan American Team Handball Federation’s (PATHF) tried to drop Greenland as a full member, so they could no longer qualify for the World Championships.  This site and others helped publicize that injustice gradually leading to Greenland’s reinstatement as a full member.

But, while this cleared Greenland for continued participation in IHF events, Greenland’s partial independence still isn’t considered sufficient for IOC and Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) related events.  This is why Greenland has never participated in the PANAM Games or qualification events for the PANAM Games, but does participate in PATHF Championships that lead to IHF World Championship qualification.

Full independence, however, would likely pave the way for recognition from the IOC and accordingly, the opportunity for Greenland to participate in the PANAM Games.  Qualification schemes could change, but the current system would logically put Greenland into the North American Qualification bin and the 3 nations would probably end up playing a single or double round robin with the 1st place nation qualifying directly and the 2nd place nation qualifying for the 2nd chance tournament.

As things currently stand Greenland’s men’s team is probably on par with the USA and Canada.  I would even probably give them a slight nod, but a resurgent USA team with a few more games under their belt would probably beat them.  The Greenland women’s team has been less competitive, but, so quite frankly have been the American Women and the Canadians are currently in rebuilding mode.   So based on results over the past decade an independent Greenland would certainly stand a good chance of qualifying for the PANAM Games from the North American region.

Greenland independence, however, won’t happen overnight and it’s also hard to project future team success.  There are a lot of variables to consider, as well, such as Canadian and American funding levels.  And not to be overlooked is the potential for a more wealthy Greenland to invest a significant portion of its sporting budget on the one sport where they are already competitive.  More funding can only take your National Team so far, but it’s worth noting that at least some of Brazil’s Handball success for the past decade can be attributed to the generous sponsorship of the Petrobras oil company.  56,000 people aren’t a lot to work with, but if Iceland can be one of the top teams in Europe with 300,000 people, it’s conceivable that Greenland could be one of the top teams in Pan America.  And it’s not out of the realm of possibility to even envision a Greenland team that could qualify for the Olympics with a PANAM Games Gold.  It would probably take the combination of a “golden generation” of Greenlander Handball players and the rest of the PATHF nations slipping a bit, but it could happen.

THN (26 Jan 2007):  Greenland Handball:  A National Passion:

THN (18 Apr 2007): Why the Recent Downgrading of Greenland’s PATHF Memership Status is Wrong:

National Public Radio Stories on Greenland: