Nordic World Ski Championship in Liberec kicks off Wednesday evening

18-02-2009

This Wednesday evening sees the start of the Nordic World Ski Championship in Liberec – the most notable sports event in the Czech Republic in 2009. Never before have the Czechs hosted the Worlds, and all eyes here will be on Czech hopefuls, most notably last year’s World Cup cross-country skiing winner Lukáš Bauer, a specialist in the men’s 15 kilometre classic. More on the much-anticipated championship as well as Wednesday’s opening event.

Lukáš Bauer, photo: CTKLukáš Bauer, photo: CTK At last, the final hours count down before the start of this year’s Nordic ski worlds, held every two years but now – for the first time – hosted by the Czech Republic. The site of the venue, Vesec and Ještěd Mountain by Liberec, north Bohemia, a championship that will see skiers and ski jumpers compete over the next 12 days, among them, Lukáš Bauer, the Czech favourite to finish in the medals. A little earlier I spoke to Čestmír Skrbek, of the Czech Ski Association on a line to Liberec and asked him to describe the mood:

“The excitement is what you’d expect ahead of a big competition: basically we’re in the final hours and minutes before the start of championship: all the racers and team members are on edge with anticipation. The atmosphere is excellent. When it comes to the competitors themselves, Lukáš Bauer is of course one of our best and we hope he does really well. At the same time, we don’t want to put extra pressure on him. Basically, it’s sport, so anything can happen.”

Certainly, the conditions for the world championships couldn’t be more inviting: snow and lots of it, after months of worries the Czech Republic might see another painfully mild winter – meaning real or artificial snow would have to be brought in. The conditions now, Čestmír Skrbek says can be either advantageous or a burden, depending on the type of racer, but certainly lots of snow is preferable to the not enough. Now 61 countries with a total of 660 racers can get set to compete and it has been estimated that over the next 12 days some 200,000 fans will attend. Wednesday evening the opening ceremony, meanwhile, will be televised by Czech TV. Čestmír Skrbek again:

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “Those who of us can attend the opening ceremony will certainly do so: this is a real celebration, the Czechs have never had anything like this. We’ve been excited about this since we first clinched the nomination.”

What will attendees and viewers see during the opening? Highlights will include an appearance by performer Karel Gott (who will sing the Czech national anthem) as well as by Ian Gillan of legendary British rock band Deep Purple. The Worlds will also see many notable guests during the twelve days of competition, among them Norway’s crown prince Haakon, Czech-born celebrity Ivana Trump, the Czech head-of-state Václav Klaus and members of the government. Even a visit by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf has not been ruled out. As for the Czechs, the last time around in Sapporo, Japan, the former racer (now head of the championship organising committee) Kateřina Neumannová brought back two medals, gold and silver. Fans will be hoping Czech racers do at least as well this time around.

18-02-2009