Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective
Let's bring the World Cup home

- By: Sara Renner

It’s nice to think that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. As hopeful as that sounds, it is simply not the case. Canadian Nordic Skiers will continue to be at a disadvantage until the World Cup is brought to home turf. If anyone can hear the violin in the background, it is about to get louder. The odds are high that I will never race an international competition on home soil. I will probably make myself go deaf if I think that my only chance will be if I hang on until the 2010 in hopes that the Olympics will be held in Vancouver. While this is personal painful, it is even worse for the development of our sport.

Nordic skiing may not be a mainstream sport in Canada but it is important to introduce healthy, affordable life activities to the increasing number of Canadians that are growing wider. Fifteen years ago, I watched the Olympics in Canmore in wide-eyed wonder. Ten years later I competed in my first Olympics. It wasn’t a coincidence. I caught the Olympic bug when I was eleven years old. Exposure to high levels of sport is contagious and if it doesn’t lead to high performance sport it will inevitable encourage healthy lifestyles.

We live in a land of winter. While we might not always have natural snow, we have cold weather and opportunities to blow snow at the Canmore Nordic Center. If you combined the current short but deep loop with a cold spring, there could be a permanent glacier in the stadium area. Spread that snow out and we could guarantee a 5km race ready World Cup loop by early November. Canmore has the snow making capabilities to rival most World Cup venues. In Europe it has become commonplace for organizers to truck snow from distant mountain passes or to stash snowmaking guns on mountaintops in hopes of cooler temperatures. Then the snow is trucked to the green race site.

Cross Country Canada has made huge advancements in raising funds in the last two years. The Women’s team is supported by Haywood Securities. The Nordic Advocates Guild, a Canmore based Nordic think pot, has also raised an impressive wad with the help of generous Calgary business people. But a Canadian World Cup would still be costly. The organizer have to pay a portion of the travel and accommodation for the top 30 ranked males and females, plus a fee to the International Ski Federation and then fork out the dollars to run the event. On the up side cross country skiers are relatively skinny and wouldn’t take up much room in cargo and could survive on scraps from the kitchen. Now we are talking hometown advantage.

It would be expensive but not impossible. We look no further than to our downhill skiing comrades to see how to finance a successful North American circuit. The Lake Louise World Cup is the largest winter event held in Canada in terms of worldwide TV audiences. The Canadian Alpine team makes ends meet by selling the TV and advertising rights. Ken Read, President of Alpine Canada says that although the World Cup is not a profit center it does bring immeasurable benefits to both the team and the hosting resorts. He said that it is an enormous asset to the Canadian Rockies to hold events early in the season, when skiers are making their destination choices.

When Canadian Nationals were held in Canmore in 2002 the town experienced $900 000 of economic spin-off. In early November hotel rooms could be filled that would otherwise be vacant. If the local community supports a World Cup, they could profit from it also. Plus, Canmore would look great on TV in November and could lure those Nordic crazed Europeans for a visit later in the season.

Income generated from selling TV rights of a Cross Country race would not fetch the same dollars as an Alpine event but it also isn’t as expensive to host a Nordic event. The Lake Louise budget is 2.8 million dollars and Cross Country Canada estimates it would cost a quarter of that amount. The Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) is keen to help finance the World Cup in Canada. With the planned upgrade to Cross Country trails at COP, Calgary and Canmore could co-host an event. If there were more than three individual races it would be a series that the Europeans couldn’t afford to miss.

Thanks to Beckie Scott, Canadians now know that hockey players aren’t the only ones who can skate. We have Canadian racing talent, great local race organizers, perfect race trails, the potential for spectators and developing skiers chomping on the bit to get in on the World Cup action. There has never been a better time to bring the World Cup to Canada. If it is to be called the “World Cup”, it should be contested throughout the world. And why not start in Canmore.

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