Oberhof leading the way in hosting more sustainable biathlon events

With the BMW IBU Biathlon World Championships passed the half-way mark, it is not just the athletes who are striving for excellence. Oberhof, the host of the 2023 World Championships, is leading the way in showcasing how to host more sustainable biathlon events.

Sustainability has been a leading principle for Oberhof since 2018 when the process of modernising its sports facilities began. Home to one of the world’s best biathlon venues, Oberhof is now also one of the world’s most sustainable biathlon venues. This ambition is closely aligned with the IBU and its ten-year Sustainability Strategy. Speaking at the IBU Sustainability Seminar in Oberhof last week, IBU Secretary General Max Cobb reminded participants how the sport needs to follow the example set by the athletes.

“Our approach mirrors the way many athletes pursue their goals. We have to measure where we are, accept what we cannot change but commit to what we can change. Set ambitious goals. Innovate to find solutions. Hold ourselves accountable. And set an example – using our platform and engaging our athletes to advocate for impactful change.”

Over the last three years, the IBU has implemented several initiatives that will serve as the foundation for achieving its objectives of being climate neutral by 2030 and net zero by 2040. The IBU drives sustainable action within the global biathlon family, with a focus on its events where most of the sport’s climate impact comes from.

Minimising energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the sports facilities has been a key consideration for Oberhof in its preparations for this year’s World Championships. By spring 2023, 2000 modules of photovoltaics on the venue facilities will produce renewable energy to cover some 20% of the total energy needs of the venue. Excess heat from the cold network used to cool the sliding centre and the ski hall is already now being fed back to heat the other facilities in the venue. For the World Championships, the entire energy supply is covered by certified green energy from hydropower. In the long term, the photovoltaics and heat recovery will be complemented by a bioenergy centre with heat pumps, biothermal power plants and a biomass boiler running on wood chips to ensure that the winter sports centre will be 100% self-sufficient for energy.

Oberhof has also placed great value on the long-term use of the venue, which led to a needs-based approach when re-planning the existing facilities. All facilities were planned with the idea of hosting multiple competitions and serving as training sites all year around. For example, the asphalt tracks will be used for roller-skiing during the summer. The facilities will not just be used by elite athletes but are also available to young talents and recreational athletes.

Snow management at the venue has also been completely redefined through the implementation of state-of-the-art methods to maximise efficiency. The venue can now store up to 35’000 m3 of snow over the summer and has worked diligently to minimise volume loss even during hot summers such as in 2022. Oberhof, like all IBU organising committees, benefits from the latest expertise and knowledge in sustainable snow management generated by the IBU Snow Network which brings venue snow experts together with leading scientists and IBU snow tech partners.

In addition, Oberhof 2023 created a sophisticated mobility concept to reduce the impact created by travel to and from the Championships. The mobility of spectators, team members and officials is the main emissions driver at sports events in general. Transport by public transport and shuttles is included free of charge in the entrance tickets for spectators within a 50 km radius of Oberhof. Spectators arriving by car are shuttled for free from several Park & Ride lots some 10-15 km outside the town of Oberhof to the event, replacing individual journeys and reducing the volume of vehicles.

An emphasis has also been placed on waste avoidance with a reusable cup system in place, biodegradable cutlery and napkins used, and a reduction in printed advertising materials. Food and drink at the venue has been sourced locally to contribute to saving emissions from transport, and there is an increase of vegetarian and vegan options available.

All these measures are examples of just some of the actions that the biathlon family can take to significantly reduce its impact on the environment while contributing to safeguarding the future of the sport. More work is underway as the IBU continues to drive sustainable change within biathlon. However, as the world’s best athletes showcase their talents here in Oberhof, the local organisers of the 2023 World Championships have shown that it is not just the athletes who should be striving for excellence.

Photos: Zweckverband Thüringer Wintersportzentrum

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