Race Organization in Finland

WestonFebruary 1, 2010

The athletes and coaches are all on their way home now. Some were up as early as 4am in order to make their early flights. It was a great trip on many levels; and as ready to sleep in our own beds as some of us may be, I don’t think anybody really wants to leave.

I just want to mention a couple of things I noticed during the races the past several days.

The “start gun” for all the races was a man hitting an empty 50-gallon drum with a stick. Though the organizers and facilities can accommodate very high-level racing, the feel of the weekend was more like an old-school race rather than a championship series. Coaches didn’t need credentials to talk to their athletes before/after the competitions. I could walk up next to the start wand for the sprint, or 3 feet from the relay start. There was nothing more than a few pine boughs marking the start of the relay. Other than the sprint, the courses were always open to skiers. Nobody got yelled at for walking/skiing on or near the trails during the races. There was almost no hard fencing in the start finish area (maybe 100m worth, on either side). Coaches meetings were short and sweet. I could set up my wax bench anywhere I wanted to, other than on the trail.

In short, the organizers and volunteers never seemed “front and center” — rather they were just there doing their thing, in the background, with 100% success. It seemed like everybody (TD’s, organizers, volunteers, coaches) was there with the mentality that the competitors were the center of the universe.

That said, the group at the Puijon Ski Club ran very professional races.

  • commentary in 3 languages (Suomi, English, and Norwegian).
  • 3-4 cameras (video + still) at the finish line.
  • warming facilities within 20 meters of the start/finish.
  • ski marking that took 3-seconds to pass through.
  • results printed and posted FAST. During the sprint heats, they had results from every heat (including times for each athlete) posted outside near the start before the following heat was done.
  • During the boys 10km race (2 x 5km laps), a little Finnish girl knocked on the door of our wax trailer and handed us a print out of the standings at the 5km mark! Never, in my life, have I gotten interim results from a multi-lap race, printed, and delivered!
  • large, heated wax trailers, within 200m of the start finish.
  • “Ski Patrol”, which were athletes designated to ski in the tracks around the start/finish area (they made sure to evenly ski in all 4 finish lanes throughout the sprint heats).

Basically, they had it figured out!

It’s time to board the plane now. Naekemiin!

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