Editors note: Over the weekend I contacted my Vanderhoof neighbour, pilot and retired dentist, Paul Collard and asked him for some insight into the recent national biathlon event. Paul is considered a very experienced and well respected senior expert in Biathlon. His current designation is International Referee for the International Biathlon Union. Among other titles included in his remarkable contribution to the sport, Mr. Collard was Chief of Competition for Biathlon at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. He raised his family here in Vanderhoof and one of the athletes he coached was his daughter Tuppy Hoehn, who went on to represent Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympic team.
A National Biathlon event is owned by Biathlon Canada. Bids to host are received three years in advance, and approved by the board, so Prince George was already pretty much assured of the event in 2015 as a follow up to the Canada Games. It takes a couple of years to plan for the event. Sponsors have to be found, necessary equipment and supplies identified and bought, and most important,volunteers recruited, trained and scheduled.
From the competitors side, the teams are identified by Province or Territory, and entered by the same. Numbers are limited for biathlon events due to the fact there are only so many targets usable at one time. This means to get on a team is highly competitive.
In this case, it was also a North American Championships, which is owned and governed by the International Biathlon Union (IBU). That added another layer of complication, as competitions would have Canadian and North American winners. Lots of medals!
The teams will plan at least two years ahead, and most would have been scouting hotels, food suppliers, transportation etc. when they were in P.G. for Canada Games.
When the snow conditions in Prince George started to look bad, the Organizing Committee (OC) had to look at contingencies. Plans were made to bringing in snow, and alternate venues were explored. There are only a few sites in Canada that can physically host a Nationals, and there had to be a gap in their schedule to enable a change of venue. Canmore was the only one in the West available, so they were asked if it was possible. Also, a final decision date had to be made with sufficient time to enable hotel bookings, flights, banquet arrangements, vehicle hire etc to be changed, and for Canmore to engage and provide the hundreds of volunteers necessary for success.
So two weeks ahead, with solid ice in the stadium, and no snow in the forecast, Prince George made the call to cancel. The decision had to be approved by the board of Biathlon Canada, and accepted by Canmore.
The Caledonia Nordics will have lost money, as the registration fees had to go to Canmore. The Canmore club probably lost $5,000, as the teams will have had extra expense with flight changes and hotel reservations. Altogether everyone loses in a situation like this. In addition the local economy would have lost out and the “reputation” of Prince George as a Winter City is tarnished.
There is a Paralympic World Cup scheduled for Prince George in 2019, and this will have the International scene wondering about that. However, the CanadianChampionships will be coming to Prince George eventually, possibly in 2020, as 2018 is already in preparation for New Brunswick.
My role is that of International Referee. There are four “outside” officials tasked to oversee the event, assist the OC in the best way to do things, and see that the IBU rules are followed. It ensures an even playing field or all competitors, and it is possible to compete anywhere in the world, and know what to expect.