The FIS Newsflash had a chance to catch up with John Aalberg, the Sports Director for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 2011 in Oslo, who embarked on his new challenge in May 2010. Just prior to joining the Oslo 2011 team, he completed a multi-year stint with VANOC as Nordic Director of the 2010 Olympic Winter and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
Q. You worked at the Vancouver Games as the Nordic Director. Which part of your experience can help you most with Oslo 2011?
A. In terms of what is going on inside the venue, a World Championship is very similar to the Olympic Games. The interface and coordination with FIS and its three Nordic disciplines is also very similar between the two events. Experience means that you can better anticipate what will happen, and also better prioritize the many projects and tasks that need to take place. Having also been a TD and jury member at many FIS World Ski Championships and World Cups gives me a good perspective of what is important for the teams, how to best prepare the snow and how to best build the detailed schedules for our own preparation and setup as well as the teams’ training and competition.
Q. How have you settled in with the Oslo 2011 team?
A. Very nicely. It is very satisfying for me to be able to work with such a great group of people and with such a special venue. I raced several times at the Holmenkollen as a young skier, and now as an organizer, I can feel the same anticipation and excitement leading up to this winter’s events. Coming with the organizational experience from several Olympic Games, I feel that I am able to contribute to the detailed planning that now is taking place within the Oslo 2011 organization.
Q. What are your main tasks and duties over the summer?
A. I am assisting the Holmenkollen construction project with the final details of the Cross-Country and Ski Jumping stadiums, courses and hills. I am also planning the details of the temporary installations at the venue (tents, wax cabins, fences, pathways etc) and defining roles and responsibilities for the miscellaneous functional areas in the sport and venue operational organization. Moreover, I am planning the Continental Cup events on the new normal hill in September. These COC ladies and men’s competitions will give us a good indication of our readiness in the technical area at this brand new hill.
Q. When will the venues be 100% ready?
A. The main construction projects will finish in November, with the exception of the final wind protection mesh at the Holmenkollen jump which will be erected in December. In November and December snowmaking and grooming will take place, as well as preparation of the ski jump in-run tracks. We plan to test the courses and hills in January and early February, and will officially open for the World Championship training on February 19th.
Q. How many volunteers and staff do you have under your command in the sports department?
A. During the current planning phase we are only three full time people in the Sport Department. As we get closer to the Championship, we are adding a few part-time staff, such as the Chiefs of Competition for the three disciplines. We are also fortunate to have a great cooperation with the City of Oslo and the current operators of the venue, and are working closely with their staff.
During the Championship weeks this winter, our Sport Department will have a total of about 600 volunteers, mainly within the Competition Committees who are responsible for the technical aspects of the events. One of my expanded roles during the Championship weeks is also to lead the entire Holmenkollen venue organization, and currently we have planned for about 1700 volunteers working at the Holmenkollen arena.
Q. Oslo 2011 will be a huge ski festival. Do you plan any special safety measures in terms of course protection etc.?
A. We are currently discussing how to best coordinate and manage the large spectator crowds out along the competition courses, many of them who plan to stay overnight in tents. This is now a special project for us, where we will provide the necessary coordination and support such as waste and toilet handling, firewood, fencing and proper information. These large overnight crowds are a unique situation for Holmenkollen, and create unique challenges for us. However, I also think these crowds are something the athletes look forward to skiing through and that makes the event so memorable for them. We therefore look at this as a positive challenge that is part of making this Championship so special.
Q. Where do you see biggest challenges in preparation?
A. Communication between the different organizational areas and partners is a typical challenge for a fast moving, complex project such as a World Championship event, and this is also true for us. Specifically in terms of sport, I look forward to testing and implementing all the new technical elements of the venue, such as snowmaking, in-run refrigeration, grooming implementation and the new operational staff and procedures for this.
Contributed by Michal Lamplot