The upcoming World Cup Finals at Garmisch-Partenkirchen kick off Bavaria’s push
for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games BY BRYCE HUBNER
in Winter? Another Munich Olympics —
Much more happens at the Olympics than the sporting events themselves — and, yeah, we mean beyond NBC analyst Mary Carillo’s polar bear
tours and logging boondoggles.
The Olympics are big business, and thousands of the folks in the stands and
on the slopes at the Vancouver Games were there on behalf of future and
prospective host cities. Sochi, Russia, is the host in 2014, and representatives
from its delegation seemed to outnumber Vancouver’s at times. The 2018
Winter Games, though, are still up for grabs and Olympic Committee members from around the globe gathered to schmooze with one another and lobby
for the next big event.
With all that in mind, Ski Racing hung out in Vancouver and Whistler for
a few days with the Bavarian Tourism Bureau, which was at once promoting
Germany’s most spectacular natural setting and lobbying on behalf of Munich, one of three official bidders for 2018.
Here’s the skinny.
If you build it, they will come
“After we hosted the alpine World Championships in 1978, we didn’t make
enough effort to keep up with our neighbors at the premier resorts of Austria
and Switzerland,” Thomas Schmid, mayor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, said
to members of the international media at a press conference in Whistler on
Feb. 21. “So in the last few years, we have upgraded our infrastructure and
facilities so that we can once again host world-class events.”
Schmid was primarily referring to two major ski racing events that will take
place within the next 12 months. This year’s World Cup Finals take place in
Garmisch-Partenkirchen from March 9 to 14, and next year the city hosts the
Alpine 2011 F.I.S. World Championships from Feb. 8 to 20.
“The improvements we’ve made to the city and the infrastructure expansions are helpful, but not so overwhelming that we’ve taken away from the
charm of Garmisch-Partenkirchen,” Schmid said. “We’ve made every effort to
maintain this [quintessential piece of Bavaria] and we’ve been very mindful
of our footprint on the environment.”
Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s closest neighbors have also worked hard in recent years to make a push for hosting the Olympics, revamping existing winter sports facilities and in some cases building new ones altogether: Inzell is
finishing construction of a facility that will host speed skating’s 2011 World
Championships; the 2011 Bob-Skeleton World Championships are near Berchtesgadener; and Ruhpolding hosts the Biathlon World Champs in 2012.
Together, the aforementioned towns comprise Bavaria’s “Winter Stars” —
where almost every German winter sports athlete comes from — and they’d
all play roles in a Munich Winter Games. It’s also no accident that four of
those five events happen prior to the July 6, 2011, IOC announcement about
who gets the 2018 Winter Olympics; improving facilities and running major
events is supposed to show the IOC that Munich can handle the mammoth
task of hosting.
The immediate future
All eyes will be on Garmisch-Partenkirchen when it hosts World Cup Finals
a few days from now, and perhaps no one will have a keener focus on the
event than German superstar Maria Riesch, who hails from the Garmisch
“I’m looking forward to World Cup Finals — the World Cup slalom champion will be decided there,” Riesch told Ski Racing a few hours after the
Olympic super G in Whistler. For the World Cup slalom title, just 23 points
separate slalom leader Riesch from Austria’s Kathrin Zettel in second place,
and France’s Sandrine Aubert is also close behind in third. “I think it will be
challenging for me,” said Riesch, “because there’s lots of pressure racing in
your hometown, but it’s also big motivation to ski for an audience cheering
just for you.”
Riesch grew up in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and lives there still, and she’s
keen on showing the place off as she charges down the piste during Finals and
beyond. “Of course, it’s my hometown so I’m very fond of it, but objectively it’s
a great place to ski in a beautiful setting. And I think World Championships
there will be among the highlights of my career.”
When asked if she’d be spending additional time training at home next year
to prepare, Riesch joked that she “never trains” as an all-event skier because
she’s incessantly traveling from race to race and switching between disciplines.
“I’ve only had two or three training days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen this winter,” Riesch said. “But just like the Canadians were able to get a lot of training
time here [at Whistler] before the Olympics, I hope we can do the same.”