World Ski Championships 2017: not just for the rich and famous

World Ski Championships 2017: not just for the rich and famous - Powerplay

The little amount of snow lying at the end of May at Salastrains station in St. Moritz brings back memories of last winter. Looking at the brown and green hills, it’s hard to imagine the world’s best skiers racing towards a cheering crowd. The finish area, athletes’ tent and podium are all conceived by Guido Mittner, head of Constructions at the World Ski Championships 2017 in St. Moritz.

For weeks now, construction workers have been carting away the wheelbarrow loads of rubbish and debris that have emerged from beneath the melting snow from the meadows near Salastrains. Preparations began here at the end of May 2016 for next year’s major winter event: the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships which are being held from 6 to 19 February 2017 in St. Moritz. "The finish line is here, the TV station cameras will be set up just back there with the rest of the press right next to them. The 12-metre-high podium will be erected somewhere around the finish line. And over there is the VIP area." Guido Mittner, head of Constructions, points across the meadow which, besides a few construction workers, is still pretty much deserted in the summer of 2016. With the temperature barely nudging 10 degrees Celsius and a brisk wind blowing, it almost feels like winter. Mittner explains where the athletes’ tent, food stalls, stage and big screen will eventually be set up. By this stage, he knows the building plans for the finish area like the back of his hand – and no wonder really, considering he has been involved in the planning for almost three years now. "Our job is to plan and organise all of the fixed and temporary structures. After all, we are the service providers for the World Championships," he says. "The biggest challenge by far is catering to all the last-minute needs and requests. This involves us having to constantly change our plans." Much of the work is carried out now, in the summer. Preparations are under way until the end of July, then everyone takes a break until October when the podium and tent sub- and superstructure are made – or as Mittner calls it, the deco. Things do appear to be on track, although as usual, only just. But there is still some time until the thousands of spectators and athletes from 74 nations come to celebrate this major skiing event.

«Last-minute requests can prove particularly challenging.»
Guido Mittner

Respecting nature
Besides taking a sustainable approach to the environment, great emphasis is also placed on respecting nature and the wishes of the building contractor at the Ski Championships in St. Moritz. After all, it is nature’s goodwill that is relied upon more than ever when building at over 2,000 metres above sea level. But first the snow has to melt before building can begin – which can often take until the beginning of summer at this altitude. "Naturally, we have to wait until the snow has disappeared – and the ground has dried – before we can even think about starting to build. Wet conditions are always a nightmare, as we have the challenge of making sure the natural environment is restored to its original condition after the big event.

«After the World Ski Championships, everything will be returned to how it was.»
Guido Mittner

Driving heavy machinery across wet soil can create huge ditches, which in turn can cause a lot of damage." Fortunately, St. Moritz is no stranger to major events and has plenty of experience in staging such great occasions: after the 1934, 1948, 1974 and 2003 Championships, 2017 will be the fifth time St. Moritz has hosted the World Ski Championships. "Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to be able to adopt many of the plans from previous competitions or World Cup races, which proved to be a huge help. Due to the sheer scale of this event, however, some new plans and builds have had to be added to our original plans." For example, a small ski lift for the World Cup will have to be dismantled and re-erected somewhere else before being returned to its original location. In terms of setting up the finish area, there is still a lot of work to be done. According to Mittner’s estimations, the area itself is around 50,000 to 60,000 square metres in total, with the barriers around the finish area stretching out to an impressive 6.5 kilometres in length. "And once the World Championships have come to an end, we aim to return the entire site to the condition it was in before we started working on it." Is it really worth all the time, effort and expense? "The World Ski Championships are certainly good for tourism and help to promote our ski resorts. They also give us the opportunity to show the world that St. Moritz is by no means a destination for just the rich and famous."

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