(ATR) Athletes and spectators alike seemed to enjoy Tuesday’s alpine parallel team event at Patscherkofel, ski venue for these first-ever Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Nations are represented by two male and two female racers each in a head-to-head giant slalom elimination format. (ATR)
It’s hard to debate that the event is fan-friendly, fun for the racers and thrilling to watch.
Host country Austria beat Norway for gold with France topping Italy for bronze.
Despite the infectious enthusiasm among both fans and racers – as was similar at February’s alpine world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – the team competition was the only proposed ski event rejected by the IOC for inclusion on the Winter Olympic program ahead of Sochi 2014.
“I’m very disappointed that the alpine team event didn’t get in,” said International Ski Federation (FIS) president Gian-Franco Kasper at Tuesday’s race.
“Someone from IOC administration was really in favor of the new events like slopestyle and so forth and there might have been reasons not to include the team event no doubt, but after the success in Garmisch and also looking at the TV ratings, it would have been logical to include it in the program.”
FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper. (ATR)
IOC president Jacques Rogge, who was at the venue for a post-race press conference, addressed Kasper’s comments to Around the Rings, advising that there were two primary concerns about inclusion of the new event.
“We wanted to be re-assured that the very best would participate and would not skip the event,” said Rogge.
“The second issue was the concentration of the use of the track,” he said. “Weather-wise you have cancellation or postponement days and we were a little concerned this would add too much pressure on the scheduling of events.”
Kasper suggested there might have been additional reasons.
“Of course, the Russians have no interest whatsoever because they have no chance to win a medal,” he said in reference to Sochi 2014.
“It was a political decision, nothing else,” Kasper added.
Austria’s Marco Schwarz earned his second gold medal Tuesday after also winning Saturday’s super combined. Like most racers competing in Innsbruck, he seemed to enjoy the dual gender event.
“It’s surely a nice change because we don’t do it everyday and it would be great if it was included in the Olympics,” he said.
Austria celebrates alpine team event gold. (ATR)
Estelle Alphand – daughter of former French ski racing great “Luc” – became the first Winter Youth Olympian to collect three medals with France’s bronze showing.
“We don’t have the opportunity very often to race with the guys and on top of that we got a medal also,” Alphand said about the team event. “The medal is not just for one of us, but we share it between the four of us.”
Regarding the snub of the event by the IOC, Kasper said: “It is not so bad. We have it here at the Youth Olympics. We have it in World Cups and at our world championships.
“I’m sure in 2018 it will be on the program automatically,” added the FIS president.
“Definitely, we will continue to study the event very closely,” countered Rogge.
Rogge Acknowledges X Games Influence
Following the parallel team event, Rogge offered his assessment of the inaugural Winter YOG on day five of 10.
IOC president Jacques Rogge at Tuesday's alpine team event. (ATR)
“We can say that Innsbruck is a very special place because of the geography, because of the unique concentration of all the venues but foremost because of the knowledge and love for winter sport of the Austrians,” he said.
“I think we will continue to have really exceptional Youth Olympic Games. We have great quality from the people managing the venues, the athletes are absolutely happy and the weather is fine so we cannot ask for more.”
The press conference moderator joked with the IOC president that the weather is forecasted to change in the upcoming days.
Rogge was asked if the success of the X Games influenced his vision for and creation of the YOG.
“If I can speak about chronology, we did not wait for the X Games to start thinking about this,” he said. “Just to tell you I created the very first European Youth Olympic Festival back in Brussels in 1991 sometime before the X Games came to completion.
“We did learn a lot from the quality of events and atmosphere at the X Games and we’re not ashamed to say that.
“We applaud the X Games – it is a very good organization and very creative. And I think a part of the spirit of the X Games also came to the Youth Olympic Games and that’s basically because kids want it and we have to follow what the kids want.”
Parking Problems at Patscherkofel
A British journalist had his car towed from the Patscherkofel on Sunday despite being told by a volunteer that he was allowed to park on a road just below the base area of the resort.
Innsbruck 2012 CEO Peter Bayer. (ATR)
Both alpine and luge events were taking place at the venue in addition to many local residents making the short drive from Innsbruck to enjoy a sunny day on the slopes.
“What we have seen in the last couple of days is that we’ve been getting additional spectators than expected and it was created logistical challenges,” said Innsbruck 2012 CEO Peter Bayer.
Bayer explained that normally when parking at the resort is full, additional roads below become one-way streets and open to parking. On Sunday, Innsbruck police held off closing these roads to traffic despite the upper lot being filled. Subsequently, cars were ticketed.
“We had a meeting on Sunday night with the head of the Innsbruck police,” said Bayer. “We explained the situation. He was very helpful and decided on Monday to open the roads to additional parking for the rest of the week.”
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