Planica has never been so organized, the logistics so fluid, and the tracks and jumps clearly connected into a whole. WC 2023 runs flawlessly organizationally, everything really depends on the viewer. But not the one under Ponci and Ciprnik, but in front of the screens.
As I watch the last kilometers of the bike climb of the highest mountain in Abu Dhabi, a new French acquaintance picks me up “Where are the spectators? It looks like there.” and points to the screen where maybe ten fans greet the world champion. Polish TV commentator Piotr Żyłe next to the defended golden snowflake, wrote sarcastically, that he received flowers in front of an impenetrable crowd of people. But there are about 30 fans behind the fence.
Where, why and how are there no fans?
On Sunday, a Norwegian journalist from Trondheim, the venue of the next Nordic WC, approached Slovenian journalists and asked them three questions summarized in “Where, why and how are there no fans?”
The question that every visitor to the first week on paper of the largest sports competition in independent Slovenia asks. (EuroBasket 2013 flatly disagrees with this statement of SZS).
Possible weighty answers that have accumulated through the debates about this red thread of the SP in Planica? Too expensive for average Slovenian pockets. The Nordic WC is not in the summer (who will pay for them to jump below 100 meters when you can fly higher up to 250 meters). A bitterly wintery February is not like a spring-like end to March. Vacation? No postponed holidays (because of SP!). more families could take the time for a trip to Tamarje. Did we mention the price of the tickets?
Official number of visitors to Planica by day:
- Wednesday, 22 February: 4000
- Thursday 23 February: 5500
- Friday, 24 February: 5000
- Saturday, 25 February: 7200
- Sunday 26 February: 5600
- TOTAL: 27,300
When ticket sales started last September, the Skiing Association of Slovenia said that they wanted more than 120,000 spectators. Over the months, the terminology was changed and the emphasis was placed on visitors to Planica, and at the same time the numbers began to rise. Even on the first day of competition, he is the president of SZS Enzo Smrekar mentioned at the Sporto conference: “We want 150 to 200 thousand visitors to Planica.”
The warmly received ceremony at the opening was only a respite for the Slovenian public, which at first quietly, and then more and more loudly, has been mulling over and turning over the numbers revealed by a look at the official ticket price list (.pdf document with all prices and types of tickets).
Summary of regular ticket prices:
- standing room from 15 to 64 euros
- stand in the stands from 19 to 84 euros
- a seat in the grandstand from 24 to 99 euros.
The final ticket prices were determined by the Planica Organizing Committee (OK) after consultations. The basic justification: they cost 35 euros in the summer in Planica, but now on most days you have the opportunity to see three or two final decisions, which presumably do not overlap, and because of the proximity, you can see them all.
Due to the requirements of a large competition (temporary grandstands, separate fenced paths for competitors, media and visitors, as well as the entire logistics), the costs are considerably higher than for just ski flights. At the same time, it does not pass by the darling. Example: the cost of chemical toilets is now four times higher per unit than before the epidemic. The prices of food and drinks at the venues are not determined by OK Planica, but by the caterer, who should have the same prices for the upcoming flights in early April.
Dealing with family and afternoons
Outrage among regular visitors to flights in Planica, jumps in Ljubno and other skiing or sports competitions in general led to actions to promote sales, especially at home. A month before the start, families came, but only for households with a maximum of four members. Eleven days before the opening, afternoon tickets were introduced, or as they say: jump tickets.
At the same time, it was also emphasized that the ticket includes free transport by train to Jesenice and from there by special buses to the entry point in Ledine pod Ratečami. The fact that one has to walk 1.5 km in one direction from the entrance to the Nordic center was not a secret, but was presented by the organizers as an encouragement for walking and the protection of Planica. (Interlude: in the mini-survey, there was no fan who was bothered in any way by the mandatory 3 km walk to watch the World Cup).
After the first two days, when the fans’ emptiness was more than a stung in the eyes, the general secretary of the Nordic WC Tomaž Šusteršič admitted to Dnevnik that they had cut expectations in half, citing 120,000 to 150,000 visitors as the starting number.
A visitor is not the same as a fan
Why is vocabulary important? Visitor of Planica namely every person who finds himself inside the fenced area of the world championship. At the entrance, these friendly guards scan your barcode and count you among the visitors. The figures therefore include all athletes, their companions, journalists and recording staff, and last but not least all volunteers and organizers. Even the drivers who take care of flawless circular traffic for accredited persons, but at the same time enter from 10 times during the day.
About 2,000 athletes, coaches and their staff are accredited for the 2023 WC. There are also 2,000 accredited journalists. The organization is managed by 1,500 volunteers and people present on duty (policemen, soldiers, medical personnel). Of course, not everyone is present at the same time and all the time, all volunteers have 8-hour working days, as do most of the technical staff, some will be present the first week, some only the second. Of course, the accredited represent a substantial share of visitors to Planica in the final number, but the exact numbers and proportions, according to OK Planica, will be known after the final analyses. According to an unofficial estimate, the accredited represent one third of all visitors.
Television and streaming video are the rulers of sports
A budget breakdown of the 43rd Nordic World Championships says yes 12.5 million euros of the total 16 million comes from Fis’s partner agency Infront, which markets all media rights and related advertising space at venues. Television and its streaming video platforms dictate both the schedule, the arrangement and, last but not least, the format of the competitions.
Essential: 3 of the 4 necessary euros are and will be earned by OK Planica by the fact that jumps, runs and combinations will look good in the broadcasts and the competitions will run smoothly and, above all, be interesting. It doesn’t hurt if, at the end of the awards, they rejoice everywhere in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and some awards for Italy and France and Japan also come in handy. The countries where the best contracts for media rights come from.
German colleagues from ZDF are satisfied with the viewership, especially the afternoon-evening jumps. Norwegians never get tired of Nordic skiing in the NRK, with cross-country skiing in the spotlight. In Sweden, women’s cross-country skiing is a must-see. The numbers are impressive, claim the WC organizers, who complain that Slovenians lack a broader picture.
There have never been so many people at the runs and the combine
In the end, you can always look on the brighter and more optimistic side. Never before in Planica have there been so many spectators at cross-country skiing and Nordic combined as now during the World Championship. Here lies part of the answer to the lack of spectators, as these two disciplines are a strong magnet in other traditional winter sports countries, while in Slovenia, despite the Petra Majdič phenomenon, they are marginal winter sports.
Although the live runs at the venue are a better experience for the visitor than the jumps. Both in terms of the day and from the viewer’s point of view. A good part of the credit goes to the dominant foreign fans, especially Norwegians and Swedes and Italians, who take care of the enthusiasm and color of the cross-country stadium, where you can feel that the World Championships in Nordic skiing are taking place after all.
As in the biggest championships, with repeated questions
The question is whether the second week of the Nordic WC will make the arenas and stands in Planica more perfect, and as a consolation to the organizers, it should be emphasized that everything is going organizationally as in the biggest competitions. Veterans of the world championships and the Olympic Games agree: as in the best major competitions! But right after that, the only journalist from the USA asks: “Really, but where are the spectators, the fans?” In case you missed it, foreigners are asking for fans, not visitors.