For many International Federations involved with PyeongChang 2018, the Games present a chance to extend their reach into a brand new location. In the case of the International Biathlon Union (IBU), next year’s event is a welcome return to familiar territory – and the stage is set for a memorable competition.
“For us, the situation is different to that of previous Olympic Winter Games,” explains Peer Lange, Communication Director at the IBU. “Normally the venue is completely new, so there are different challenges, but we knew PyeongChang because we held our first World Cup there in 2008 – and then the IBU World Championships in 2009. So the venue is very familiar to us and most things are still the same, with some further positive developments.”
Preparations are firmly on target, with only a few minor tweaks needed before the action begins in earnest.
“On the sporting side of things all is well on track, with close cooperation,” Lange says. “The main concern is about snow storage and making sure we are 100% ready if the weather conditions are warm or rainy.”
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This has been an exciting season in biathlon, whose field appears to be closer than ever – something that has not escaped the notice of potential fans.
“The number of races that you could call ‘thrillers’ is increasing and we have already had several photo finishes over distances of more than 10km.” - says Lange referring to this season’s World Cup.
That is remarkable given the mixture of individual skill and sheer endurance required for one of the Games’ most compelling sports. Biathletes are well known for their longevity.
“In terms of contenders for PyeongChang 2018, it would be very surprising to see names among the contenders that we do not already know.”
Biathlon has produced some of the Olympic Winter Games’ biggest stars. The 43-year-old Ole Einar Bjorndalen (NOR) is, with 13 medals, the most-decorated athlete in the event’s history while Martin Fourcade [FRA] has his eye on repeating his own double gold-winning heroics from Sochi 2014. Lange says such characters are vital ambassadors for the sport’s image, on and off the track.
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“They have an effect not only through their sporting success but also by their personalities, behaviour and responsibility as role models for the younger generation,” he explains.
“All of them struggle at certain moments and will have tough times in their careers, but they stand tall, keep going and stay on top. They also demonstrate the fair play of biathletes and help with social engagement beside the tracks in their free time.
Lange believes that the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018 will broaden the appeal and perspective of winter sports.