A roster of top champions—including Dario COLOGNA of Switzerland; Giuliano RAZZOLI, Federica BRIGNONE, and Arianna FONTANA of Italy; Lars BERGER of Norway; Jeremy TEELA of the U.S.; and French stars Tessa WORLEY, Simon and Martin FOURCADE, and Adrien THEAUX—are just some of the 1,000 athletes from 40 nations to headline the largest-ever military sports event to be hosted in France. With just 40 days to go before the 2nd CISM World Winter Games open, the Annecy 2013 Organizing Committee held a press conference this morning in Paris at the prestigious Hôtel des Invalides to announce the competition program. It was another opportunity, particularly for champions Vincent VITTOZ and Vincent JAY, to spotlight the significant contribution that military sports makes to elite-caliber competition at the international level.
The opening ceremony of the 2nd World Winter Games will take place on Monday 25 March at 6:00 p.m. on the shore of Lake Annecy before an anticipated crowd of 20,000. The ceremony—complete with the lighting of the WWG flame by two great names in French skiing—will kick off 4 days of top-level competition in the French Alps.
On 12 May 2011 in Seoul, South Korea, the International Military Sports Council (CISM) announced that Annecy, France, had been selected over Sochi, Russia, to hold the 2nd World Winter Games. CISM, an international body with 133 member nations from five continents, has been one of the largest multi-sport organizations in the world since 1948. With "friendship through sport" as its motto, the CISM has regularly staged major international competitions in the years that precede the Olympic Games, beginning with the World Summer Games in 1995 and their winter counterpart in 2010.
"A celebration of sporting excellence and friendship between nations"
"France is extremely proud to host these Games, the largest military sports competition ever held in our country," said General Jean-René Bachelet, president of the Annecy 2013 Organizing Committee. "We have been working hard for months now, with the active support of our government, local municipalities, and private partners, to make this event a popular success as well as an authentic celebration of sporting excellence and friendship between nations. Holding it in the Haute-Savoie, a setting that epitomizes both winter sports and the close affinity that the armed forces has for this area, is particularly meaningful. Members of the military have helped write skiing and mountaineering history for decades now."
"Even though the athletes are looking forward to the more laid-back atmosphere at this last major event of the winter season, the competition promises to be intense and the performance levels very high," observed Vincent Vittoz, world champion cross-country skier and Annecy 2013 vice president. "Martin Fourcade’s third silver medal this weekend at the biathlon world championships augurs well for French athletes."
The program will feature six major disciplines, with events taking place in Annecy (short track speed skating, indoor sport climbing, ski orienteering), La Clusaz (alpine skiing), Le Grand Bornand (Nordic skiing, including biathlon), and Chamonix Mont-Blanc (ski mountaineering). "Technically, the Games have been designed to provide maximum comfort and safety for the athletes," Vincent Vittoz noted. "And to ensure that they are a stellar success, all the sporting events—and the ceremonies—will be free for spectators."
"Military sports, a breeding ground for champions"
Forty nations will send delegations to the Games. While entries are not yet closed for the 1,000 spots, many of those already signed on are at the pinnacle of their respective disciplines (Olympic champions and medalists, world champions, etc.).
And while the general public may not realize it, military sports make a major contribution to elite international athletics. For example, 56 of the 258 champions who captured medals in the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver were products of military programs. Military institutions on every continent identify, train, and coach athletes who excel at military and non-military competitions, and also help them prepare for their post-career transitions.
"Historically, France is an international forerunner in this regard. Over the past 40 years, French military athletes have won 445 international titles, including 76 Olympic medals. Military sport is a true breeding ground of champions, not only in France, but in other countries too," noted General Louis Boyer, French Commissioner of Military Sports.
When it comes to high-level sports, the French military is France’s leading institutional partner. Currently, 140 elite athletes (among them Alain Bernard, Florent Manaudou, and many of the members of the French ski team, including Tessa Worley, Simon and Martin Fourcade, Adrien Théaux) are under contract with the Ministry of Defense.
Vincent Jay recalled his experience as an elite athlete: "When I was recruited by the military, I was a promising but unknown athlete. The army gave me a real opportunity to develop in a stimulating and secure environment. They’ve backed me at every step of my career with financial, logistical, and especially moral support."
"I can assure you that the Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, fully supports this major event, on one hand because of its guiding philosophy of friendship through sport, and on the other because it provides the Ministry of Defense with an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to developing and promoting sport at the highest level," concluded General Pierre de Villiers, Major-general of the French Army.
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