As those of you that follow this column will remember, I had the good fortune to travel to Russia this past month for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, along with key FIS 2015 Alpine World Championships Organizing Committee members John Garnsey and Erik Borgen. Our goal was to observe how the Sochi organizers were dealing with different issues, some similar to what we will experience next year for the Championships, while also checking out things that could help us ensure that we put our best foot forward to the world.
Some may wonder how Sochi, Russia, can be comparable to Vail. After all, Russia spent more than $50 billion on their Games, while the budget for the 2015 World Championships is around $58 million. Vail and Beaver Creek have just the alpine skiing portion of the Games, while Sochi, Russia, featured all the Winter Olympic sports.
Having a Presence
Since the Vail Valley became involved in international ski racing, we have always made it a point to have a presence at the sport’s major events, whether it involves annual meetings, FIS Congresses or Olympics and World Championships. There is always something that we bring back from these trips that makes our events better, even if that piece of information stems from something the organizer might not have done as well as they had hoped.
So what did we return with from the Sochi Olympics? First and foremost, everyone in the alpine world is talking about and looking forward to being in Vail and Beaver Creek for the 2015 World Championships. The pressure is on now for sure.
The volunteers were amazing. It was easy to tell that they had put so much time and effort into the Games that you couldn’t help but be impressed with people who are so committed. I have no doubt that the world will experience the same feeling here from our “15ers”.
Despite the pre-Games worries, Sochi, Russia was safe. While there were security check points everywhere, you expected nothing less so it was not bad. One of the most amazing things was that Borgen forgot his 2015 hat at the first security checkpoint early one morning and, eight hours later when he returned, it was still there, waiting for him to reclaim it. Remember that thousands of people were going through these check points on a daily basis.
A similar thing happened to U.S. Ski Team downhiller Steven Nyman, who managed to forget his race helmet on one of the trains. A day later, it was right where he left it. These are the sort of experiences that you remember and that help to turn a good event into a great one.
In addition, we gained valuable information on a number of areas, including accreditation and visas, the live in-stadium show, customer service and transportation. At the end of the day, however, it was the friendliness and warmth of the Russian people that I think we will always remember.
Despite the concerns that were voiced prior to the start of the Olympics, a funny thing happened at the Opening Ceremony ... a Winter Olympics broke out. For the next 17 days, the athletes and their accomplishments were the story.
Sport is emotion in action and the world became caught up in the emotions and actions of Sochi’s Winter Olympians. Politics were set aside and a former U.S. Olympian turned Canadian cross country coach gave his ski to a Russian athlete to enable him to finish his race. “I wanted him to have dignity when he crossed the finish line,” Justin Wadsworth would tell the media afterwards.
The FIS 2015 Alpine World Championships will not just be about gold medals, records or unforgettable sporting accomplishments. They are also about a remarkable human adventure. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for a World Championships to break out again in Vail and Beaver Creek.
Ceil Folz is president of the Vail Valley Foundation and president of the 2015 World Championships Organizing Committee. The 2015 World Championships are scheduled for Feb. 2-15.
The volunteers were amazing. It was easy to tell that they had put so much time and effort into the Games ... I have no doubt that the world will experience the same feeling here from our “15ers.”