Jiří Hamza before the start of the World Championships: "I am proud of my team."
Can you describe to us at the beginning what has changed here since last year's World Cup?
The arena needed to be upgraded so that large events could be held here not only in biathlon but also in cross-country skiing and mountain biking. The basis is spaces for athletes and their service. Everything from data cabling, lighting, multi-purpose facilities for athletes, which we will subsequently use as gyms, is new. The area underwent a complete reconstruction of what was built between 2005 - 2006. I think we can proudly say today that we belong to the most modern biathlon facilities in the world.
I would emphasize that we did everything with regard to the environment. Permanent stands will reduce truck traffic to Vysočina, LED lighting technology will save energy.
The vision is that sustainability is provided by the National Sports Agency for 30 years, at least 20 years world competitions in biathlon can be held here, as we set the parameters of reconstruction like this.
What are you most proud of here, something others might envy you for elsewhere?
I am proud primarily of my team of organizers and people here at the sports club from Nové Město, I am proud that we managed to secure financing. I must thank the companies that carried out the reconstruction, the government, the region, the city, and the NSA for their support. Without it, it wouldn't be possible. Biathlon is popular, but it is still a smaller sport. And we are not able to finance something like this. Therefore, I see it as a huge plus that the government, through the NSA, pushed through and opened the National Sports Centers program. One of the biggest debts that Czech sport generally has is being addressed. And that is outdated infrastructure.
You mentioned finances. How much did the reconstruction of the Vysočina Arena cost, and what is the budget for the Biathlon World Championships?
The reconstruction cost 487 million CZK including VAT, but excluding project works, so in total, a little over half a billion CZK. As for the championships, we are around 270 million CZK, but it is an outdoor sport and variables such as weather and associated increased costs can play a role.
Was the preparation for this championships easier because you had experience from 2013?
It was easier in the sense that we all know what we have to do. It was less social because we all aged eleven years, but the team has become very professional and could thus respond to increasing demands from the IBU, television companies, teams, and athletes. Inflation also played a role. It was easier this year in the sense that we already had financing secured before the event, whereas in 2013 it was still a bit punk. We will try to do it as best as possible so that everyone is satisfied.
Is there anything missing for your satisfaction?
Weather. The forecast is not good at this stage; it is supposed to be very warm, so spectator comfort on the way to the Vysočina Arena will be reduced. But there's nothing we can do about it; we just have to be prepared. Also, the results of the Czech representatives are not ideal, but I am an optimist and believe that everything will turn out well here in Nové Město, even though it doesn't look like it yet.
How are tickets selling?
Weekends are practically sold out; tickets are available for weekday races, and I believe it will be also full; we also have so-called student days. I would like to urge people to come on time, especially in the weather, which won't be ideal. We have a rich accompanying program prepared to entertain people. But if it rains, we can't influence that. In the first week, we will be forced to switch to the so-called wet variant, which will be more complicated from a logistical point of view.
What will happen at the Vysočina Arena before the start of the championships?
Over the weekend, the first teams will start arriving, and the first trainings will begin. On Tuesday, February 6, we will start the championships at Vratislav Square in Nové Město. Right now, we are most afraid of positive temperatures and rain. We have enough snow reserves, but the distribution and clearing will be demanding. It's complex and labor-intensive. We must be 100% prepared for the mixed relay on February 7th.
Photo: Jaroslav Svoboda