Nové Město na Moravě: Mecca of Czech biathlon hosting 2024 World Biathlon Championships

Nové Město na Moravě

Nové Město na Moravě lies in the heart of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands and is a prominent sports resort. In winter, it is a mecca of Czech biathlon and cross-country skiing; in summer it hosts mountain bike riding events. Next week the town will host the 2024 IBU World Championships.

With just days to go to the World Biathlon Championships in Nové Město na Moravě, the anticipation in the mountain town of around 10,000 inhabitants is palpable. Winter and summer sports have been a big part of life in the town ever since the first ski race was organized there in 1910.

Due to its hilly terrain, which provides ideal conditions for cross-country skiing and mountain biking Nové Město has hosted numerous sports events including the Golden Ski race established in 1934, which was included in the cross-country skiing World Cup in 1981. But it was the 2013 Biathlon World Championships in Nové Město which really put the town on the international sports map.

The town’s mayor Michal Šmarda, who has been in office since 2010, says the 2013 championship was a big milestone for the town.

Michal Šmarda | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

"It was hard to imagine just how big a difference such an event can make. I first realized this when I went to see the Biathlon World Championship in Ruhpolding, Germany, which is a town that is smaller than Nové Město na Moravě. Hosting the world championship enabled it to grow in every way. It was a wonderful host and you could see the locals’ pride in being at the centre of the action. And I have to say that Nové Město has managed to do something similar. We have opened up and tapped the potential that was there. Hosting sports events has boosted tourism, we have improved our facilities and infrastructure. When there are big races around 30,000 people a day come here which is a huge opportunity, not only for Nové Město, but for the entire Vysočina Region.”

The privilege of hosting the 2024 Biathlon World Championships gave the town fresh impulse to further improve its facilities. The Vysočina Arena was reconstructed at a cost of half a billion crowns in view of further improving sports conditions, facilitating related operations with modern technology and minimizing the environmental impact of the games. It was unveiled just this week in the presence of the Czech prime minister and the very first international event it will host is the 2024 Biathlon World Championships.

Vysočina Arena | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

Mayor Michal Šmarda says it is a joy to see the result.

“The venue has been completed, and it is not only more modern, and better suited to host a world championship, but it is also a more sustainable complex in the long-term that will be used all year round. Athletes who compete or train here, be it from Czechia or abroad, will have much better facilities, the logistics have improved. Spectators will also have greater comfort. Then there are all the facilities that TV crews and radio crews require, such as optic cables, lighting, easy access to WiFi and all those technical things. Vysočina Arena now offers optimal conditions for sportspeople be they skiers, biathletes or cyclists. In short, the resort will serve absolutely everyone.”

Vysočina Arena | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

For resorts hosting winter sports events the lack of snow may be a problem – but Vysočina Arena is well prepared for the whims of the weather due to a snow management strategy based on sustainability and efficient resource use.

"It is true that Nové Město na Moravě is not one of the areas with the most favourable climatic conditions. When you have a resort somewhere high in the Alps you are safe, but resorts like Nové Město na Moravě, which are, 600 m above sea level, need to have a Plan B. So that was a big problem that we faced. Of course you can make artificial snow, but only when it's freezing. Within our snow management strategy we built a snow reservoir in Nové Město na Moravě in order to conserve snow. I sometimes joke that Nové Město has its own “world wonder” - the biggest snow reservoir in the world. This snow reservoir is approximately three quarters of a hectare and can hold 60 000 cubic meters of snow. It could hold more, but that’s approximately how much snow is stored there at the end of the winter. Over the summer, about a third of that snow melts. That means you're left with 40,000 cubic metres of snow that you can use for race tracks, even if you don’t have good conditions for natural snow. So that “snow bank” allows you to store snow from one winter to the next. In Nové Město the old Czech proverb that says no snow will last until the next winter is just not true. Here it will last."

Vysočina Arena | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

Locals from near and far use the facilities all year round, skiing here in the winter and biking in the summer and many of them already have tickets to the championship. Filip Holub is one of the many skiers who came to check out the Vysočina Arena when it reopened after reconstruction.

“I was here in the summer and I am amazed by the progress that has been made since then. The reconstruction  has increased the arena’s capacity and now all it needs is for the spectators to come. This is a big event for us and there will be fans coming to it from around the country. So I think there will be a great fan base! I think we can be rightly proud of the arena, the facilities and the organizational team behind it!”

Vysočina Arena | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

Mayor Michal Šmarda says he expects the town to be bursting at the seams next week.

"Eleven years ago we had about 190,000 people here for the world championship. Now I think we will top that number. My guess is, it could be around 200,000 people in total. Of course, not on any given day. On a busy day it could be around 30,000 people."

Although most visitors will be heading for the sports arena, the mayor says that the town offers plenty more –including opportunities to do a bit of skiing.

Church of St Kunhuta | Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

“People who come here admire the beautiful scenery and there are excellent cross-country tracks in the area. If you like architecture you can explore the town itself which dates back to 1267 and boasts a lovely church - the Church of Saint Kunhuta, the oldest monument in the town, dating back to 1362. There are many architectural gems in the vicinity such as the beautiful castle in Žďár nad Sazavou an unusual building that connects the medieval Cistercian monastery with the Baroque residence of the Kinski noble family, or Santini's famous pilgrimage church of St. John of Nepomuk on Green Mountain. And of course in Nové Město itself there is the Horacka Gallery housed in a neo-Renaissance Castle. It focuses on glassmaking, landscaping and 20th century sculpture.

And, last but not least, it's not a bad idea to visit the local spa and try some of our regional specialties, because there are some really good pubs and restaurants in the surrounding villages and towns. But you know what, we don’t want to give them publicity now. When the visitors arrive, we will be happy to give them tips where to go for a good meal!”

The 2024 Biathlon World Championships in Nové Město na Moravě will kick off on February 7 with the mixed relays; the last event will take place on Sunday 18 February, with both women and men competing in the mass start.

The championships will feature all the top biathlon athletes. These will include Norwegian stars such as Joahanes Thingnes Boe and Tarjei Bo, Sturla Holm Laegreid, Endre Stroemsheim and Ingrid Landmark Tandervold. You can also look forward to athletes Justine Braisaz-Bouchet from France and Lisa Vittozzi from Italy.

As the Vysočina Arena has artificial lighting, most of the 12 races will be held later, at times more convenient for spectators.

When the races are not being held, the tracks at the Vysočina Arena in Nové Město na Moravě as well as the groomed trails nearby are open to the public, free of charge!

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