The Winter Games NZ announced its plans for the 2013 event that will see the Games increase its standing on the international winter sports circuit with the inclusion of no less than six World Cup events.
Previously Winter Games NZ has hosted the FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup, attracting the world’s best riders, including several Olympic medalists. In 2013 the programme will extend to FIS World Cup events in Snowboard Slopestyle, Snowboard cross, Freestyle Ski Halfpipe, Freestyle Ski Slopestyle and Ski Cross, as well as Snowboard Halfpipe.
Global governing body, FIS (Federation International de Ski), have already placed the snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle in the preliminary calendar for 2013 and actively approached WGNZ to host the freeski halfpipe and slopestyle as a lead up event to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
There is also international support for the ski and snowboard cross events with both Canada and Australia pushing for WGNZ to host World Cups in these disciplines in the lead in to Sochi which takes place just six months after WGNZ.
The 2013 Winter Games NZ will see a number of format changes with the emphasis strongly on snow sports and working to attract the majority of the world’s top elite athletes to New Zealand. While the Games ran for 18 days in 2011, the 2013 edition will be compressed to run over 14 days from 12-25 August with the opening ceremony on Sunday, 11 August 2013.
Winter Games chairman, Sir Eion Edgar, said that the board was excited with the new programme and its potential to lift the Games to an even higher international level.
“We have already had considerable success but this further development is wonderful for Otago and New Zealand. We have a real competitive advantage with our snow sports and 2013 is the prime opportunity to fully capitalise on it.” Sir Eion added that the full support of all existing partners will be key for the Winter Games to be able to implement such a bold plan. “We will be talking to all our major partners, including the Government, in the New Year.”
Graham Budd of Destination Queenstown said the new format for the Games, while ambitious, was incredibly exciting and could only benefit the region and New Zealand’s profile as a premier winter sports destination.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be significantly raising the bar in terms of delivery and international profile of the Games, positioning it as a premier winter sports event, second only to the Winter Olympics. We’re very happy to support the Games in 2013 and these new developments are entirely complimentary with the Queenstown proposition of positioning ourselves as the leading lake and alpine resort in the Southern Hemisphere as well as promoting the Southern Lakes region as a premier international winter destination.”
“The refined programme gives us a sharper focus and will, we believe, ensure entries in most events that will closely match the entries in the Winter Olympics six months later in Socchi, Russia,” said chief executive Arthur Klap. “This is a depth and spread of elite sports talent not seen before in New Zealand and will attract significant international media interest”.
The Board and senior management staff had a strategy workshop in November that resulted in the increased focus on attracting the world’s best. If a sport is unlikely to attract at least six out of the 10 best then that sport was removed from the programme. This has meant that ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating and winter triathlon have all been dropped in the interim. This has also meant that Dunedin and Mt Hutt will not feature in 2013.
“It has been a very difficult exercise telling some sports and Dunedin that they will not be part of the 2013 Winter Games but we need to be totally objective in this,” said Klap.
The snow sports industry is a significant export earner for New Zealand and an objective of the Winter Games is to boost the profile of New Zealand as a snow sports destination in Asia, North America and Europe. The potential multiplier for the snow industry is difficult to quantify but undisputed by those within the industry.