Partly cloudy4° / 13° C
Despite the endless meters of wire necessary for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, the friendly village of Seefeld in Tyrol is by no means slow on the uptake. For media broadcast alone, 22,000 meters of optical fiber cable were placed. Add to it 7,400 meters of temporary wireless LAN connection. 20 terabyte data transfer is secured by – among other technical details – 14 LTE standard small cells for grid expansion. Just the optical fiber cable length multiplied by a factor of thousand would get us from wonderful Innsbruck in Tyrol even further than Wellington, capital of New Zealand which is “just about” 18,545 km as the crow flies. And close to Australia. Not a bad comparison as “Austria” is now and than confused with “Australia” in the English speaking world. We might not have kangaroos jumping around here – our World Championships ski jumpers fly much higher and further nevertheless. The endless meters of cable in winter wonderland Seefeld in Tyrol – pretty much invisible for visitors here – are a great image for what sports stand for: exciting people and connecting the world.
Not just any, though. This tunnel of decision plays an important role for the athletes of the FIS Nordic Ski World Championship. They have to pass through it rather briefly – but these moments are crucial ones.
The first time is for attaching the chip for time measurement. This is the moment when every athlete switches his mental set fully on “emergency”. Who steps through the tunnel the day after tomorrow knows: just a few minutes and it means “to do or die now”. Today, only staff testers pass through, ensuring good organization of the whole competition. A proverbial tunnel vision seems to be echoed by the rocks of the sidewalls. Emotions only known and felt by the athletes themselves are not carried outside this roughly 35 meters long tunnel. Each competitive athlete lives alone with them in this moment.
Right after each competition they have to come through here again – this time for doping control. Taken during an act of daily routine which is usually accompanied by feelings of relief, it will not influence the athletes’ mood this time. Or will it after all?
A World Championship is pure emotion. This tunnel – small and unimpressive as it might appear in the Tyrolean mountain side – is a tunnel of decision for all the athletes here.
There are only a few hours left till the official opening of the 52nd FIS Nordic Ski Championships in Seefeld, Tyrol. The Ladies’ Sprint and the Skating Men competition are the first cross-country decisions taking place on the 21st of February. Austrian Head trainer Markus Gandler is looking forward to interesting competitions and is inviting all fans to come to watch the competition right on location. “We are cordially inviting all fans and visitors to join us during the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld. We have been working long and hard to pull of this big sports event. The home advantage for the Austrian athletes is not that big as we have a very young but eager team. Our boys and girls are not yet used to present themselves in front of the crowd. But we worked hard to compete successfully in these Championships. We are looking forward to participating in the competitions and perform accordingly” says the Austrian trainer who nominated two ladies and seven men for the World Championships.
Norway has two topstars participating in Seefeld: Therese Johaug and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, but also the Austrian athletes want to fight for the medals. Especially Teresa Stadtlober is going to fight for victory (after the mistake in Pyoengchang where she was close to winning silver but went the wrong way just before the finish line). Dominik Baldauf is hoping for a quick recovery after his current cold.
Benjamin Moser, the Tyrolean athlete from lake Achensee is very happy to participate in this Championship: “It is great that I am participating in this competition. It is my highlight of the year, especially as I come from the Tyrol. I cannot really say whether it’s going to be an advantage or not. But it’s great that local people will cheer and I am looking forward to the wonderful atmosphere at this big event. I have a very good feeling and will give 120 percent!”
Nowadays, there is no big sports event like a World Championship taking place withouth volunteers. These busy helpers coming from countries from all over the world have found their way to Seefeld to help during the second Nordic Ski World Championships after 1985. Speaking of 1985, there are several locals involved that were already helping in 1985, four of them present today.
Peter Schauer and Günter Hörtnagl are just two men from Seefeld who are busy helping to make sure that these Championships are a big success. Both of them are working for the transportation service and take athletes, officials, judges and journalist from one Championship location to the next right on time. Being a local is helping tremendously to avoid traffic during this stressful time.
Günter Hörtnagl is experiencing these World Championships from a different standpoint than 35 years ago. Then, he was the restaurant tenant at the media centre and responsible for providing food for up to 600 people daily. He fondly remembers TV legends such as Teddy Podgorski and Erich Weiss who were working at the media centre then. He had so much work to do that he didn’t experience much of the Championships. Therefore he is very happy that he has a different job now to take part in the hustle and bustle much more.
Peter Schauer is one of the Seefeld locals that even experienced the Olympic Games in 1964 as a child. In 1985 he was working for the Red Cross during the Nordic Ski World Championship. Contrary to Günter Hörtnagl he had more chances to experience the competitions. He saw several cross-crountry skiers laying motionless in the snow behind the finish line. These pictures he probably won’t see during the Championships 2019.
Both locals are very happy that Seefeld is hosting a big international sports event again. In their opinion, the village is benefitting a lot from the investments in the local infrastructure. Furthermore, they like to be in contact with people from all over the world and are happy to be able to refresh their language skills. They think that the Championships 1985 were cosier but are highly motivated to ensure that the current World Championships become a big success.
Just a few hours before the official opening of the 52nd Nordic ski world championship in Seefeld, FIS president Gian Franco Kasper, president of the Austrian Ski Federation Peter Schröcksnadel and mayor of Seefeld, Werner Frießer announced statements about the competition and answered questions of the press representatives in the media center.
Suiss FIS president Gian Franco Kasper attends since Wednesday the Seefeld the second world championship in a row. “The Austrian Ski Federation and Seefeld did excellent work and provided best conditions”, declared Kasper before the opening ceremony. “I am very much convinced, we will have a great, if not excellent event!”, he said. President of the Austrian Ski Federation, Peter Schröcksnadel emphasized, all was done to be very well prepared. “I am very much looking forward to fair and accident-free competition.”
Prof. Peter Schröcksnadel:
„Seefeld is one of the most beautiful places in Austria and we are most thankful for the willingness of the city of Seefeld, to be host of this venue. We are very proud to hold this event and I would like to state explicitly: we are ready! 707 athletes are registered for the individual competitions, we are very much looking forward to exiting and fair competitions and a sports festival for everyone!”
Gian Franco Kasper:
“I was convinced, when I came back only two days ago from Aare, Sweden, we will celebrate a winter fairytale of Nordic skiing here during the next two weeks. Expectations are certainly high – but here in Tyrol, I am very much convinced, we will have a great, if not excellent event!”
„I can tell you, when the signal to start was given for the qualifications in cross-country, it was a very emotional moment for me. I was present and had tears in my eyes when the first skiers entered the cross-country track. All of us locals here looked forward excitedly during preparation and are really glad that it finally starts!”
Local hero Philipp Aschenwald went from school straight to the jumping hill for the special jump’s second training at Bergisel jumping hill. After having passed his English exam, he is very happy to head out of the gate at Bergisel, showing his top form for the World Championships with rank no. 3 and 5. “Naturally I rather jump than sit in a classroom” the 23-year old quotes. “It is really cool being here. Bergisel and Seefeld are two great locations and I am really happy to be starting here. I am looking forward to two interesting weeks.”
The goal for the ÖSV team is achieving the best possible results with the help of the cheering crowds. The charges of head trainer Andreas Felder entered at the second training and showed positive results: The ninth and twelfth place of Daniel Huber and the two second places of Michi Hayböck were especially pleasing. Stefan Kraft confirmed his role as the odds-on favourite: 130 m in the second round signified rank no. 2. – Only high-flyer Ryoyu Kobayashi (the winner of all four jumps of the last Four Hills Tournament) jumped two meters farther.
Helas, the competition is strong: the German team with Karl Geiger and Markus Eisenbichler at the top were very strong in the second training whereas the Polish took a break on Thursday.
On Friday the qualification jumps will take place before the medal jumps begin. Stefan Kraft, Michael Hayböck, Philipp Aschenwald, Daniel Huber and old hand Manuel Fettner who asserted himself against Jan Hörl for Saturday are forming the team for the World Championships.
Adam Malysz from Poland is one of the most successful sportsmen in the history of ski jumping. He won six medals alone during World Championships, becoming even World Champion twice in 2013. After finishing his active career, he became a rally driver. For several years now he is head of sports and co-ordinator in the Polish Ski Federation. Just before the first decisions in ski-jumping take place in these World Championships, the 41-years old talked to us about his tasks in the Polish team, reviewed his successes and told us to be aware of the Austrian team at Bergisel.
What a feeling do you have: being an official instead of being an active athlete at the current World Championships?
I was already an official during the Lahti Championships in 2017. It is nothing new for me, but it’s always great to be part of a big sports event. I am not an active athlete anymore but I like my position as support and will always love ski jumping. I am incredibly proud of every team success.”
What are your tasks as director of sports and co-ordinator?
I am in charge of the special ski-jumping as well as the Nordic Combined in the Polish Ski Federation, that means altogether for three groups: Ladies and Men Ski Jumping as well as Men Nordic Combined. There is always lots to do: When we arrived in Austria I had a lot of organizational tasks. I had to take care of the accreditation and the parking permits, getting the radio connection started etc.
During World Championships, you were often present on the pedestal. Are there some special memories you behold?
World Championships are something very special and these memories stay with you forever. I never won an Olympic medal but won several at various World Championships. The Bergisel jumping hill is one of my favourites. I can feel the memories much more intensely here and I am happy to be back here.
The Bergisel jumping hill is technically very demanding. Who are your favourites?
There are several medal candidates. Certainly, Ryoyu Kobayashi is one of them as he also leads in the World Cup. Our team is very strong as well, especially Kamil Stoch, Piotr Żyła und Dawid Kubacki. The German Markus Eisenbichler is also jumping on a very high level although he sometimes commits some errors. And of course you have to take into account the Austrians. Stefan Kraft is one of the favourites for the gold medal. He knows the jumping hill very well and can be certain of the Austrian fans’ support.
Only four other jumpers managed to become World Champion twice. How do you feel being part of this illustrious circle?
It’s a wonderful feeling that keeps going on for a long time! It’s not easy to achieve something like that. You really have to be in top form. It isn’t enough to jump well, the conditions must be right, you must have slept well etc… Only if everything is right you can perform exceptionally. The feeling that everything runs smoothly is giving you another bout of energy.
Stefan Kraft said after his successful season 2016/27 that he is very proud to be part of the same circle as his big idol Adam Malysz now. Are you used to comparisons like that?
It is always wonderful to hear such words and I am very proud of it. It is great that so many jumpers who have seen me as a role model are winning medals and have become idols themselves.
The visual heart of the world championship beats in a rather unimposing looking broadcast van. Here is where the action is, so viewers all over the world can experience each competition in front of their screens. Right beside the galleries where sports fans loudly cheer for the athletes, determines one voice the pulse in the central broadcast control center. The director pulls the strings of each production. At this world championship, it is Michael Kögler. This man from ORF does it for a long time already. Round about 20 international major sports events like Olympic games and world championships he mastered so far. He is calm despite full concentration. But each time is exciting to him: „Each time it is a great and of course very responsible task. What we do here is supposed to be of worth for everyone after all.“
What is sent out into the world from this broadcast van resembles a concertante masterpiece. 125 cameras built so to speak the TV-orchestra. Ski jump arenas Bergisel and Seefeld alone, 30 of them are deployed, during the ladies 15 km sciathlon and the 30 km one of men, even 65. The directors’ ,,Word and eye“ wave for all here the baton. „My motto is always: It has to be fun for all participants“, says Kögler. And fun he obviously has with all the camera men along the tracks, eight super-slow motion-cameras, two drones, six cranes and the overview-camera attached to a blimp in airy heights of 250 meters. According to Kögler, hand in hand is not only the slogan of the World Championship but just as well of every broadcast. 10 nations are represented in the team of camera men. As the conductor of production emphasized: „It is always teamwork!“ Here, image-master Gaby Schmitz-Westhofer loughs and adds „We work together for 25 years already – like an old couple!“ Together with assistant director Markus, they will pull out all the stops amidst the screens, controllers and signals, here until these World Championships are over.
Wintersports arena – What is interesting for international brands to participate in big sports events as the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld? That was one of the question at the “business talk” in the studio “Tirol Berg”. Where medal winners usually talk about their big successes, representatives of various big sponsors met to discuss the potential of World Championships to present themselves to the world.
“This event is a showcase for the world and is hopefully making people think that nature needs to be appreciated and safeguarded.” clarifies Anton Seeber of LEITNER ropeways. “At such big events we can test and develop new products. It is a long-term business cycle” says the CEO of one of the leading enterprises in the ropeway business from Sterzing, South Tyrol.
If wintersports are doing well, all connected enterprises are doing well. That’s the common tenor of all companies present: hotels are getting modernized, visitors are coming, ski areas are renewed. In times like this sustainability is asked for! As part of environmental-friendly World Championships, transportation should happen mainly by train and the support of the ÖBB (Austrian Railways) is essential.
Sustainability for our future – that’s the motto for every one of the present sponsors with presenting sponsor Stora Enso in the lead: “a low seven digit number” did the Swedish-Finnish company invest in the World Championships in Seefeld altogether. The world’s second biggest forestry enterprise is specialising in environmental-friendly paper as well as packaging. Seefeld and the Tyrol altogether are an ideal location for presenting the company concept to the eyes of the public.
“Tyrol possesses beautiful forests. Our enterprise is certainly a good match here. We can show the visitors how to replace fossil combustible material through wood” explains Jari Suominen, Executive Vice President of this traditional enterprise. They even produce recyclable wood fibre cutlery which is used during the Championships and is getting collected in special bins.
The concept of sustainability is essential for a successful future underlines ÖSV secretary general Klaus Leistner, who also emphasizes the necessity of financial gain to be able to further develop the wintersports after the World Championships.
There is a big number of competition judges working during the 52nd Nordic Ski World Championships to guarantee fair decision-making. Three of them are Otto Nehauser, Herbert Kury and Konrad Liegl who all have lots of experience. They are all members of the local sports club in Scharnitz and have been supporting the Skiclub Seefeld for a long time in various sports events.
Otto Neuhauser has the most experience and was already working at the Olympic Games in 1964. As part of the track preparation team he was partly in charge of ensuring the perfect condition of the cross-country tracks. In the 80s he decided to become a judge in Nordic disciplines. His first official competition was the Nordic Ski World Championships 1985 in Seefeld as control on the tracks.
Since the early 80s Neuhauser and his friend Herbert Kury were working as judges. He remembers the exciting times from the early days in which a lot of handiwork was still necessary. Nowadays, most of the timing is done automatically. Kury remembers that he had to take the intermediate times of athletes such as Gunde Svan by using a stop watch. Given the top performances of these athletes, it wasn’t an easy task.
The third of this trio, Konrad Liegl, has been helping the Skiclub Seefeld since 1976. Back then, he was a control post on the tracks and a judge during the World Championships in 1985. He also has fond memories of the beginning years. Once he starts talking he also remembers that there were hardly any barriers that separated the athletes from the fans. Spectators were allowed to position themselves along the track and as a judge you were obliged to take care that no sportsman was restrained.
Now, the three veterans are back again as judges during the World Championships 2019. The job title remains the same but the tasks have changed considerably in the last decades. On one hand, there are only a few judges necessary in the start area due to optical time measurement, on the other hand TV producers and photographers are happy that there are fewer people in this area to keep the focus on the athletes.
Otto Neuhauser, Herbert Kury and Konrad Liegl still love their work although there have been many changes. They are happy to be part of the World Championships and will also be ready to help the Skiclub Seefeld in the future.
With its round about 1.500 m above ocean level, Gschwandtkopf mountain offers a birds view perspective of the Inn river valley. Well reachable by tow lifts and chair lifts from Seefeld and Mösern, it provides momentarily also a breathtaking view of the Word Championship arena from above.
Seefeld, known as the cradle of cross country skiing, has a lot to offer for down hill fans as well. Strictly speaking, alpine ski is the big brother of the cross country region and the alpine slopes are actually the roots of so named Ski Field Seefeld!
Nordic and Alpine ski sport live the world championship slogan “hand in hand”: Gschwandtkopf, Sportalm und Sonnenalm count on tradition and fun with new ideas - “class not mass”.
Skiing with delight is emphasized particularly at Gschwandtkopf – a perfect ski area for the whole family. While mother is training in the tracks and dad on the slopes, laid-back junior glides on his snow-board and little Lisa happily sledges down a little hill, grandma can watch them all behind her sunglasses – while enjoying an apple strudel on the patio of the Sportalm. With this complete package of skiing for everyone, the roots of this ski area sprout anew.
The approach is not without reason: the Schneider family owns the mountain property including the lift area in 3rd generation. Leonie Schneider is authorized representative, father Wolfgang owner of the mountain. Grandfather Richard took over the old lift of Gschwandtkopf from the county. A huge investment. Doubtless with a lot of risk. “They were all on board at the maiden trip of the new lift system: great grandpa, grandpa and my dad – then, there was a tragic accident when one chair of the lift rebounded”, says Leonie. “Only grandpa and dad, who was just four years old at that time, survived.” The early-childhood chock was deep – but tough as Tyrolians are, it become mother of invention. Grandpa Richard Schneider invented the Schneider-System-Terminal: nowadays, system terminals are part of every lift – at that time, it was a break-through in terms of safety on the rope. “Nothing like this should ever happen again, so he worked meticulously in the metal working shop in the back and built it”, Leonie added.
An when you glance down from the “Gschwandt”, as the alpine mountain is called here, in direction of the tracks and tribunes of the Nordic Ski World Championship, one should know, already in the late 50s the legendary “Silver Bullet Races” took place here with Toni Seiler among others.
Today, the Gschwandtkopf mountain is not only a ski area for the whole family, it is also very popular as a ski racing course amount our German neighbors. Week after week, clubs race here and two times the German Alpine Championship in RTL was determined here. Many professional teams value the Gschwandtkopf as training course, notably the ladies ski team of the United States of America with Lindsey Vonn or as well Alexis Pintaurault.
With a lot of ideas for the family business Leonie Schneider looks into the future, since creativity runs in her veins: together with her cousin who manages the technical part of the lift system, she plans already for the time after the Nordic Ski World Championship. An alpine ski show will be the next highlight. Fireworks, backpack rockets and a torch-march will celebrate on March 3rd fresh and anew the Alpine roots of this ski region offering all you want.
A big event needs a lot of helping hands to make everything run smoothly. Thousands of details have to be considered to make athletes as well as spectators happy. Nearly invisible, the helping hands join forces from dawn till dusk to make everything shine brilliantly. It’s a big task for “ISS Facility Service” who has more than half a million workers all over the world. In Tyrol, there are about 500 skilled workers taking care of cleaning, catering, safety and cleanliness. A part of them is currently working in Seefeld.
At 6 am they start their workday. 46 people discreetly working in the background thus guaranteeing that everybody feels comfortable. That this isn’t an easy feat is obvious, as the whole area to cover reaches from the WM hall to the ski jumping and cross-country arena. Listing the items alone makes you dizzy: TV commentator cubicles, FIS container, athlete’s catering area as well as the royal lounge for Norwegian king Harald, jumping tower at the jumping hill and the Dixi toilets back in the woods.
The workday finally ends late at night. A good team coordination is necessary which is done by Herbert Ramsbacher who is in charge of the World Championships. A former football professional himself he knows exactly what to look out for: “It’s a big advantage to have a sports background. I know the works very well and can easily adapt to new situations” says the Tyrolean, who is preparing his team for further big sports events. He is happy that his workers still have some fun at work: “It is very interesting for the team to experience such an event first-hand and to be close to the sportsmen!”