More than 750 elite athletes from a record number of competing nations are arriving in New Zealand’s Southern Alps to thrill and amaze spectators at the region’s ski fields and millions of TV viewers around the world as organisers make final preparations for the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013.
The opening ceremony in Queenstown this Thursday (15 August) will welcome all athletes, coaches, spectators and supporters in a free gala event at the Lotto Village, Earnslaw Park. The Village opens at 1pm with live music and special events, followed by the opening ceremony at 5.30pm.
After the arrival of flags and athletes in true Kiwi style an official blessing from local iwi, Ngai Tahu will be followed by speeches by Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Chairman, Sir Eion Edgar and Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English who will officially open the Games.
The first event takes place earlier on Thursday morning at Snow Farm near Wanaka where Nordic ski stars including 2010 Winter Olympic gold medallists,Â Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Nikita Kriukov (RUS) compete in the FIS Australia/New Zealand Cup Cross-Country Skiing Sprint.Â All men and women’s podium finishers will travel across the Crown Range to receive their medals during the opening ceremony.
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ chief executive, Arthur Klap said everything was on track and looking good.
“The athletes are here, the snow is here, the downtown Lotto Villages are going up and the whole crew is ready for action! The start lists this year are absolutely out of this world. We have Olympic champions, world champions and national heroes from all major winter sports nations, including the entire men and women’s snowboard halfpipe podiums from Vancouver 2010. This is a true testament to the standing of Winter Games NZ on a global stage where it’s now established as one of the top five international events on the winter sports circuit,” he said.
“Athletes and coaches all tell us they love coming here and, with the support of our sponsors and funding partners plus the help of more than 400 volunteers, I’m confident this will be the best Winter Games NZ ever. So come down to Earnslaw Park ”
More than 40 nations have entered to date, the highest number in the Games’ history. They include winter sports powerhouses like USA, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, China, Japan as well as relative minnows Dominica, Venezuela, Belgium and British Virgin Islands.
Athletes set to appear over the 11-day competition include the very best in their sports – Olympic snowboarder halfpipe champions Shaun White (USA) and Torah Bright (AUS), the world’s current best overall men and women freeskiers, Gus Kenworthy (USA) and Tiril SjÃ¥stad Christiansen (NOR), Paralympic gold medallist Adam Hall (NZ), Olympic cross-country skiing champions Nikita Kriukov (RUS) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) plus elite curling teams from Japan and Korea – New Zealand’s main rivals for the two remaining Olympic qualification places.
Winter Games NZ 2013 takes place over 11-days from 15-25 August at the international resorts of Coronet Peak, Cardrona Alpine Resort and Snow Farm, along with the Maniototo Curling International Rink. Set against the spectacular backdrop of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the Games also include a full Downtown Sessions festival programme featuring films, live music and entertainment in Queenstown and Lake Wanaka.