Ice Hockey, Luge Leaders on 2018 Candidates

(ATR) The federation presidents for ice hockey and luge tell Around the Rings the bids from Annecy and Munich offer a different – but "equally desirable" – sort of promise when compared to PyeongChang.

(ATR) The federation presidents for ice hockey and luge tell Around the Ringsthe Olympic bids from Annecy and Munich offer a different – but "equally desirable" – sort of promise when compared to PyeongChang.

ATRspoke with each of the seven winter sports heads earlier this year about their respective world championships but also made sure to ask about the decision facing IOC members next week in Durban.

In this second of three installments, Rene Fasel of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and Josef Fendt of the International Luge Federation (FIL) give their takes on the bids, their proposed venues and the promise they offer for the growth of winter sport.

ICE HOCKEY

Around the Rings: What is your federation looking for in the bids from Munich, Annecy, and PyeongChang?

Rene Fasel: There are two things that are not up for discussion: safety of the players and integrity of the game. All other matters around the tournament – be it transport, accommodation or other logistical issues – can always be discussed and eventually resolved via a constructive and open dialogue.

My biggest concern is to protect the players and ensure that the Olympic audience sees a tournament showcasing hockey as it is – a safe, fast and skillful game that is just spectacular to watch.

ATR: Have you visited the bid cities and their proposed venues for ice hockey? What concerns do you have?

RF: As an IOC member not sitting on the 2018 Evaluation Commission, it is not possible for me to visit any of the bid cities in the months leading up to the election. Nevertheless, over the course of the last few years, I have been to the three contending countries, and all three strike me with their welcoming hospitality, their beautiful countries as well as their drive and passion to stage a Games. No matter who wins the race in July, I know that all three candidates have the means and the knowledge to deliver an Olympic Winter Games of which we will all hold fond memories for years to come.

ATR: Which city would help grow ice hockey the most if it were awarded the 2018 Winter Games?

RF: All three cities would help grow the sport, but each in a unique way. The German and French hosts would certainly impress the worldwide Olympic audience with their unmatched hockey crowds and their love for the game. PyeongChang, on the other hand, would help us grow hockey’s presence in Asia and let the IIHF further establish the game in the East, increasing both player and audience numbers. Both options seem equally desirable to me.

ATR: It is more important to bring ice hockey to a country that does not necessarily have a long history and familiarity with the sport,or is it more important to stage the Games in a country where the sport is already entrenched?

RF: I think that the Olympic tournament has grown into such a global event that every tournament regardless of its eventual location is a success for our game.

But there are differences in how the Olympic hockey tournament impacts the local crowd. In a market where hockey is a non-traditional sport, a big event like the Games will raise awareness of ice hockey and help recruit and retain players and fans locally, regionally and nationally. In traditional hockey markets, the Games will help strengthen hockey’s position as one of the prime sports as well as make it possibly even leap over one or two other competing sports and gain more importance with fans and other supporters. I see an importance in both situations.

LUGE

ATR: What is your federation looking for in the bids from Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang?

Josef Fendt: We certainly look very carefully at all three bids, and we think that all three of them will be capable of hosting good Winter Olympic Games.

The difference for us is that the bids of Munich and Annecy have existing luge tracks in contrast to PyeongChang. They would have to build a new artificial luge and bobsleigh track.

ATR: Have you visited the bid cities and their proposed luge venues? What concerns do you have?

JF: Yes, in PyeongChang I have seen the place where the new track would be built, and of course the other two tracks in Koenigssee and Annecy I am familiar with them. I know them.

ATR: Which of the three cities would help grow luge the most if it were awarded the 2018 Winter Games?

JF: This is certainly a very difficult question as there are various aspects in this respect. For us, all three of the bids would be acceptable, and we are also confident that all three of them would serve the further development of luge.

ATR: Is it more important to bring luge to a country that doesn't necessarily have a long history and familiarity with the sport, or is it more important to stage the Games in a country where the sport is already entrenched?

JF: This is again a difficult question because both options have their advantages. Of course, it’s a good thing to get a new track. On the other hand, it’s also good to use existing tracks.

ATR: Have you heard anything from luge athletes about their preferences for 2018?

JF: Personally, I have not heard anything. I assume it’s different for everybody because it depends on their national interests.

Interviews conducted by Matthew Grayson.