Changes bring fresh momentum to the Opening Ceremony

The Bayern-1 Radio Band played rousing live music, the nations marched in in three groups, Ruhpolding celebrated 40 years of Biathlon.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A new order of events at the opening ceremony brought a nice change of pace. The Bayern-1 Radio Band played rousing live music, the nations marched in in three groups, Ruhpolding celebrated 40 years of Biathlon, plans were made to set a world record on Saturday, and the Swedish team dance the Schuhplattler dance “Ambosspolka.”

The Champions Park was packed. Around 5000 biathlon fans showed up to hear the Bayern-1 Radio Band perform their biathlon World Cup debut in Ruhpolding.  The mild weather did not correlate exactly to the time of year, but it was great for celebrating. At the beginning, the moderators Harry, Geri, Laura and Melitta welcomed the fans to Ruhpolding’s “fifth season.” The first group of nations marched in a moment later. Dominik Landertinger, long plagued by back problems, and Eder who are both excited about their near “home-game,” represented Austria on the stage. “My back is alright, but my form could improve,” said Landertinger. Simon Eder, who was still sick in Oberhof, is looking forward to the Chiemgau-Arena since he was not able to race here last year due to illness.

Matthias Ahrens, who was born in Bavaria, represented the Canadian team saying that his team-mates would charge ahead and that he was impressed by the amazing visibility here in the Chiemgau. He was on the race jury that had to decide whether to break off the competition due to the heavy fog.  The French athlete Marie Dorin-Habert praised the atmosphere in Ruhpolding as “fantastique,” and that was the end of the first group of nations.  

 Pichler praised the fans, Walch praised the community

Next the mayor and head of the Organizational Committee Claus Pichler and Sigi Walch spoke. “The amazing stadium, the elaborate organization and the great achievements of the athletes would not be anything without the fans,” said Mr. Pichler. Sigi Walch, currently Bavaria’s youngest County Commissioner, remembered his childhood when his father was the stadium speaker in Ruhpolding. “At our house, everything was all about Biathlon. There was only one theme.” He also that the competitions could not be held without the volunteers and thanked them expressly for their efforts.  

Then the married couple Björndalen/Domracheva, told about the successes they have achieved in Ruhpolding in a video shown on a large screen. In addition to many relay races, Björndalen won 11 individual races, and was the World Junior Champion three times at the base of the Zirmberg. Domracheva won her first World Championship here in 2012. Both have only the best memories of Ruhpolding and always enjoy coming here.

 The foundation was laid 40 years ago

Herbert Fritzenwenger remembers, “Everything used to be worse: the equipment, the stadium, the skiers and the fans. But we laid the cornerstone for all the current improvements.” He was there in 1977 as a 15 year old boy when the woods by the ski jump were cleared and the the shooting range was built. The Biathlon-Cup, which later turned into the World Cup, was held a year later. Just one year later, Ruhpolding hosted the World Championships for the first time.

 “Oh how lovely it is here!”

After the second group of nations, there was another premiere. Director of the Tourist Office and Organizational Committee member Herbert Ringsgwandl and Peter Eichstätt from Potsdam wrote new lyrics to the popular German tune, changing “Oh wie ist das schön” to “Oh how lovely it is here, such the world has never seen” plus a few additional verses. They hope to set a new world record singing this song with the largest biathlon choir ever.  

 Swedish Anvil “Amboß” Polka

During the marching in of the third group of nations, Wolfgang Pichler and his Swedish team had a unique idea: they danced the Schuhplattler dance called the Anvil Polka „Amboßpolka.” The fans were enthusiastic and demanded an encore. This didn’t happen, but Pichler encouraged the spectators to support his team on with the type of rhythmic clapping that the Icelanders use to cheer on their soccer team. The German team, ready for the races in Ruhpolding, marched in last. Even Simon Schempp stated he was healthy, but made the allowance that the races would tell if he was really fit.

The end of the opening ceremony belonged to the German Ski Federations President Dr. Franz Steimle and Anders Besseberg. The IBU-President participated in the first World Championship in 1979 as the chief trainer of the Norwegian team. Every year, Ruhpolding is one of the highlights of the World Cup season, but this year especially, because it is the last chance to qualify for the Olympics for many athletes. While he declared the World Cup as officially begun and the IBU flag was raised, the first fireworks illuminated the sky above Ruhpolding signaling the end of the opening ceremony.