This cooperation brings together the two non-traditional summer competitions and Championships. Both feature multiple events, entertainment and the opportunity for the fans to get close to their favorite biathletes.
Blinkfestivalen is an early August four-day summer Nordic extravaganza with two days of rollerski cross-country competitions and two days of rollerski biathlon. It regularly attracts hundreds of competitors, with junior to elite World Cup level athletes from many nations, using multiple urban venues, attracting thousands of fans on site and more in the live television broadcasts. Since 2006, Blink has been the summer showcase for the Norwegian, French, and a smattering of other international teams, testing their biathlon skills in super sprint and mass start competitions but also vying for supremacy in an always fun combined men’s and women’s shooting duel. It is one of the few times in any year to see head-to-head battles between two of the top teams in the sport.
The Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival in its two editions has been a bit more exclusive than the 16-year-old Blink. MFNF’s one-day elite competition format brings in top names for cross-country competitions and men’s and women’s biathlon mass starts with eight big names on the starting line. The Fourcade Festival drops biathlon in a park setting alongside beautiful Lake Annecy in the middle of 150,000-population city. It is a sports extravaganza, Super Bowl-like with French flair and atmosphere: 4,000 fans in the tribunes, several thousand more trackside with good food, a fan festival, athlete introductions, music and fireworks on the evening before and plenty of chances to rub elbows with the big biathlon stars.
Bringing these two established popular competitions into alignment with the IBU SBWCH can only make Summer Biathlon more popular with more nations and fans taking notice. Combining the Norwegian straight-forward biathlon showcase with the flair of the MFNF and the Championship sensibility of the IBU SBWCH can be nothing short of a win all around. IBU President Olle Dahlin commented, “We are delighted to partner with Blinkfestival and MFNF and explore how we can strengthen the popularity of summer biathlon. This strategy to create a summer biathlon series is perfectly aligned with IBU’s strategic plan, Target 26, and the objectives to raise the level of performance in summer biathlon, extend the reach of the sport and maximise the promotion of biathlon.”
These two events, although different, have fan/TV-friendly formats that focus on entertainment and competition. Benedikt Doll, who competed in both Fourcade Festivals summed up the summer competition vibe, “I always like the French spectators. They are really fair and cheer for all of the athletes. That makes it a lot of fun, along with the beautiful weather and nice atmosphere. I just like it!” “Liking or even better, loving it” is the goal for the future of Summer Biathlon!
Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Blink/Hans Lie, Blink/Andersen Oyvid