Less than 100 days to the Pre-Games 2016!
It was an incredibly special day for the Organizing Committee of the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017. The reason being is that on 2nd October 2015, it was exactly 100 days to the Pre-Games 2016. (The Pre-Games run from 10 - 15 January 2016, in Graz, Schladming and Ramsau.)
From all over Austria, the Special Olympics athletes will come together in Styria to determine their national champion representation throughout the wide variety of sports and classes. The importance of the Pre-Games is even more pronounced as it is the “dress rehearsal” for the big World Winter Games in March 2017.
In principle, they are national games with international participation, as pre-Games Coordinator Elmar Mandl describes: "We will welcome more than 1,000 athletes and 500 coaches. We are proud that we have 23 delegations from abroad to host". In addition to Russia and Japan we also have delegates from surprising winter sports nations such as Qatar, Jordan, U.A.E. and Uzbekistan (see data and facts). Austria alone is represented by 122 delegations, with 880 athletes participating (including 21 unified partner) and almost 400 trainers. The numbers may change between now and January, but certainly are the largest national winter games of Special Olympics ever conducted. A proud and pleased Hermann Kröll, President of Austria and the World Winter Games 2017 commented: "After the flag handover at the summer games in Los Angeles the Pre-Games 2016 are the next big highlight for us. Faithfully we look forward many exciting races and especially great performances of the athletes. Our motto "Heartbeat for the world".
It is not only the athletes and coaches that consider the Pre-Games 2016 as a dress rehearsal, but also the event organizers too. “The Pre-Games 2016 will be the same structure and format as 2017, in terms of the same sports, same club interaction, volunteers, staff and sponsors. The only difference being, taking the ideal opportunity to see, in Pre-Games 2016, which areas run well and any areas that would benefit from improvement and apply such findings to 2017" as communicated by the two managing directors Marc Angelini and Markus Pichler. Especially when it comes to generating positive sentiment for the World Winter Games and to prepare the public for the major event in March 2017. "The time will pass quickly, so we need every opportunity to promote the importance of the Special Olympics to everyone. It will showcase the great and emotional evocation the event in the Styria will generate", explain Angelini and Pichler.
Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding will take place in Schladming, and Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, in Ramsa. In Graz, the Curling events will be at Helmut List Halle and the Figure Skating and Speed Skating will be held in the Eishalle Liebenau. Floorball will take place in the blue box of the HIB Liebenau.
The Pre-Games 2016 will also house the 'Motor Activity Training Program’ (MATP) offered at the Congress Schladming venue. These are customized competitions for people with higher needs. "Special course must be taken alone or with the help of a supervisor. For the first time, we have recorded the MATP in the program of winter, this is a big step for us", explained Mandl, who is responsible since January 2014 for the coordination of the pre-Games.
Supported by not only some 650 volunteers but also local sports associations, who are fundamental in assessing situations and applying adjustments, as needed. "The know-how of the clubs and associations is an important factor, without them we could not carry out these games," Mandl thanked the following associations: WSV Ramsau (Nordic skiing and snowshoeing), WSV Schladming (Alpine skiing and snowboard), the Austrian Floorballverband (Floorball), Graz Ice Skating Association (figure skating), Short Track Speed Skating Grazer Dragons (speed skating) and ESV Old Toll Seiersberg (curling).
Many natives will serve as translators and accompany the foreign teams in the Pre-Games. "Each delegation is assigned at least one translator", advised the Coordinator, during the Pre-Games, with about 7,500 overnight stays in Graz (2,500), Schladming (1,750), and Ramsau (3,250) expected.
"Host Town" and "Healthy Athletes"
The Host Town Program is an old tradition of Special Olympics. While the international athletes spend three days in a selected location in the host country they will be introduced to the culture, the region itself and the local people. For the Host Town Program delegations on all over Austria to be assigned to various Host Towns before the pre-Games (8 - 10 January), of course something less than before the World Winter Games. This time, the international teams in Maria Lankowitz, Stainz, St. Stefan will be hosted in either Stainz or Lannach depending on their sport.
Also a special Healthy Athletes Program is offered on 9 January 2016. "While our foreign guests here they will be offered an extensive health check-up, as many may or may not be familiar with in their home countries” Mandl says in explaining the meaning of the program. The participation is free of charge and on a voluntary basis and will take place in the premises of the Graz Joanneum University of applied sciences.
Of course, the Pre-Games 2016 will be book-ended with the much-anticipated Opening & Closing Ceremonies. The opening ceremony will be held on 10 January 2016 in Schladming and is free of charge to the public. Over the nearly two-hour event, guests will witness the Olympic Flame being lit and the flag being hoisted - both as a symbolic sign of the games. They will also get to enjoy an entertaining Ski Show. “Opus” and “Day Dreamer” will provide musical entertainment also.
On 14 January 2016 there will also be, two smaller closing parties at "Congress Schladming" and in the Graz Helmut List Hall (in addition to the cult band “Egon7” providing musical entertainment there will also be a spectacular dance show).
Pre-Games 2016 FAST FACTS:
Date(s): 10 – 15 January 2016
Host Cities: Graz, Schladming-Rohrmoos, Ramsau
Opening Ceremony: 10 January 2016, World Cup Stadium planai, Schladming with Opus and day dreamer (from 18: 00, free entrance)
Sporting Events: 11-14 January 2016
Closing Ceremony: 14 January 2016, Schladming (congress, from 19: 00) and Graz (Helmut List Halle, from 19: 00) with Egon 7 (Free admission)
Figure skating and speed skating (Eishalle Liebenau, Graz)
Stock sport (Graz, Helmut list Hall)
Floorball (Graz, bluebox HIB Liebenau)
Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding (Schladming-Rohrmoos, RWY 32)
Nordic Skiing & Snowshoeing (Ramsau, Stadium)
Austria: approx. 880 athletes (including 21 unified partner)and 400 trainers
International approximately 150 athletes and 70 coaches from 23 countries: Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, United Kingdom, Holland, Iceland, Japan, Jordan, Qatar, Croatia, Luxembourg, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, United States, Uzbekistan, U.A.E.