Martin Fourcade on his Nordic Festival, “I knew people would love it”

The fourth edition of the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival wrapped up Sunday and once again, it was a rousing success. The featured televised and streamed competitions were drama-filled battles, but just as important the free Ekosport Village, concerts, food trucks, children’s and adult biathlons and even a mass yoga session all combined into a truly special event that over 30,000 people attended.

“I knew the people would love it”

Any event of this magnitude does not just happen. It takes meticulous planning and most importantly, passion. That is where the man whose name it bears comes in. As Martin Fourcade’s career wound down, there was no question in his mind that he wanted to give back to the sport that gave him so much. Thus, the Martin Fourcade Nordic Festival was born. “I knew the people would love it. From competing at Blink and Wiesbaden and knowing the interest of the French people about biathlon, I was quite confident. But I was quite stressed about my ability to deliver it. Thinking about something is one thing but being able to deliver it is quite something else. I was doing this with friends, with no experience, just a big idea. We were like little kids trying to drive a big car!”

After several meetings with this core group of former athletes/friends, Fourcade realized it was a bigger job than he imagined. “That first year, I was still competing and now when I think about it. I say, “Wow, I do not know how I did it, winning and still being in shape for the winter season.’ I do not know how I found that energy, but I also realized that day that I had a super team with me.”

Team Fully Invested

Further commenting on the team and volunteers, “We have over 200 volunteers and over 75% are here every year. They help create the atmosphere you see. If you look around, you will see many of those driving trucks, putting up fences and running the event are former biathletes (like his brother French Coach Simon Fourcade, Alexis Boeuf and IBU Technical Committee Chairman Christophe Vassallo). Everyone is fully invested and they know their jobs well. The atmosphere on the working place is really incredible.”

“Giving back was very important to me”

When asked his goals in creating the MFNF, without hesitation, the seven-time World Cup Total Score winner emphatically said, “Yes, giving back was very important to me. I wanted to give the French fans a taste of the summer biathlon experience like in Norway or Germany where there is not the pressure of the World Cups or World Championships. I always felt so much more relaxed in summer events, without this pressure. When I competed in these summer events, my goal was to have fun, give joy to the fans…Biathlon gave me so much. I felt like I was the one who could make an event like this and did not want to miss this opportunity to give back. I also wanted everybody at the table: biathlon, cross-country, my partners but also the other ski brands. You see in the village, everybody is here. Bringing biathlon outside the traditional stadium, to inside the city was a unique opportunity. I wanted biathlon lovers, as well as those who did not know or like it, but would become lovers of biathlon.”

Bringing Biathlon to the Big Stage

Fourcade brought his dream to fruition by combining concepts from other events. “I tried to be inspired by all of the good biathlon experiences I lived; the city centre from Blink where kids involved every day, the great TV production from Wiesbaden and the atmosphere from Antholz and Ruhpolding. We did not copy. If we wanted to succeed in Annecy with French fans, we had to have our own face.” Laughing but serious, he added, “I have my spies everywhere and they give me ideas. We are not opponents, but partners, bringing biathlon to the big stage.”

Athletes, autographs “as much free as possible”

The elite athletes who make up the competitions are the critical base of the MFNF. Interacting with them, one thing prevails: smiles. Even if they do not have their best day, the athletes enjoy the event. “I try to treat the athletes in the best way possible. I treat them in a way that I would have loved an organizer to treat me. We do everything possible from training, the atmosphere we generate and the facilities for them.”

Autograph sessions in the Ekosport Village are a very popular part of the athlete experience. Hundreds of people stand in line to spend a few seconds and get a selfie with their heroes. Fourcade admitted, “That interaction is a key point in organizing this festival. It is a big deal as an organizer, making as much as possible free. Kids in Annecy can come into the village, try biathlon, get autographs and see the athletes on the tracks all for free. In the Sunday competitions, we have more than 500 kids in the morning and over 800 adults in the afternoon. We give anyone the opportunity to discover biathlon. The tribunes are the only thing that cost money; autograph signings, animations and concerts are all free. Bringing music to the city for free, which is expensive, is also a big source of pride.”

Mini-Paris 2024

As a member of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee and Chairman of the Paris 2024 Athlete’s Commission, Fourcade draws inspiration from his involvement. “Paris 2024 is about creating unforgettable moments. We are a mini-Paris 2024, drawing people from around the world. The Paris staff, as part of their job visits 10 athletic events in the four-year run-up and we are one of them. Paris 2024 is a very small Olympic Games but with the same pressure to deliver these special moments and I hope they found something here this weekend.”

“Think about what you want people to remember”

Martin Fourcade who transitioned from champion athlete into event organizer par excellence describes his MFNF experience as “engaged. It has my name. I built this event like I imagined as a sporting event within biathlon: open, free, engaged on the sports side but also respectful of the world in everything we do while working with people I like. You have to think about what you want to give and what you want the people to remember. They will always identify the event with me. This is what I wanted, so I have to say I am engaged!”


Despite all of the hard work that goes into the MFNF, Fourcade is all smiles. “It is a bigger success than I ever imagined. This is our fourth edition and I have never seen more smiles at any time in my life than in these three days. This is a place where I succeed in giving happiness to people not in the media or around the world, but right here and in my home.”

Photos: IBU/Christian Manzoni, Nordic Focus/Leo Authamayou

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