The town of Liberec is bracing for the biggest event in its history - the Nordic World Ski Championship, which is due to kick off in less than three weeks’ time. The long awaited championship has many fans but it is not without its critics. Opponents say the event has received overly generous subsidies from the state and argue that given the country’s relatively mild climate a ski event is a luxury that the Czech Republic can ill-afford.
Liberec, located some 700 metres above sea level, has organized ski events in the past but this has not been without difficulties. Last year, the organizers of a skiing event had to “steal” snow from surrounding areas and transport it to the site in lorries, because the weather wasn’t cold enough to make artificial snow. The incident left many people wondering if it was a good idea to hold a skiing championship in this country in the first place. This time round, the weather seems to favour the event. Zdeněk Soudný is a spokesman for the championship:
“Currently we have about 70 centimetres of artificial snow and 20 centimetres of natural snow in Vesec. The stadium and the venues are frozen. So even if it warms up in the coming days, we shouldn’t have a problem. We also have deposits of snow in nearby Albrechtice and Bedřichov.”
Although everything is going according to plan the organizers of the Nordic World Ski Championship are scaling down their expectations somewhat. While a few months ago they were talking about making a profit, now they say it will be a success if they break even. Only a third of the tickets have been sold so far, but Zdeněk Soudný is confident that they will sell at least 70 percent by the start of the event.
While the Czech education system has long grappled with a lack of funds the Ministry of Education and Sport has provided the Nordic World Ski Championship with subsidies amounting to several hundred million crowns. Many consider that to be immoral, but Zdeněk Soudný says that in the long-run, it is a good investment:
“It is a good investment because the championship is a good way to promote the Czech Republic. I think that the city and the region, as well as the whole country, can expect to see the benefits in a few years’ time. The venue of the world championship will attract many people to Liberec and to Jizerské Hory. So I think it makes sense to support it.”
Although there are still plenty of tickets left, some events, such as the
men’s relays and men’s jumps are selling out pretty fast. For the first
time in the history of world ski championships, people will also get to see
women compete in ski jumping.
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