Audi quattro Winter Games NZ could be held annually from 2017 if a business case study commissioned by Sport New Zealand stacks up for the internationally ranked winter sports event to change its status as a biennial fixture.
Chairman of Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Sir Eion Edgar said there is significant interest in the Games, which feature alpine and adaptive skiing, freeskiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and curling, being held every year.
“The review is currently being carried out by Ernst & Young who are interviewing a wide group of people with connections to the event. It is a very complex and major study but what we know is that there is a high level of demand from the southern venues, sports organisations and the International Ski Federation (FIS).”
Sir Eion said it was imperative that the feasibility study was done to determine the future of the Games. “If we don’t become an annual fixture another Southern Hemisphere country might step in and Winter Games NZ could definitely lose their advantage.”
The likelihood of a new worldwide FIS Freestyle Super Series being introduced is also driving the annual debate.
“FIS is promoting the concept of four international events as part of the new series with two in North America, one in Europe and another in Asia. At each event there would be six World Cups for freeskiing and snowboarding including halfpipe, slopestyle and Big Air and Winter Games NZ is positioning itself to be the Asian venue.”
Sir Eion said it was virtually guaranteed that all the world’s top freestyle athletes would compete as part of the Super Series circuit.
Cardrona Alpine Resort is one of the main supporters for an annual Winter Games NZ.
Real Journeys CEO Richard Lauder said to maximise the benefits for New Zealand, Winter Games NZ need to be on the annual elite high ranking circuit or they will not attract top international athletes.
“Cardrona sees huge value in its connection with the elite freestyle snow sports community and in particular their social media followers. American rider Shaun White for example has 2.5 million Facebook followers.”
Mr Lauder said Cardrona invests substantially in developing and maintaining Olympic standard competitions to attract elite athletes.
“But we would prefer to lock in Winter Games NZ annually and via this commitment continue to build facilities and skills to make it a top snow sports event and highlight New Zealand as a world-class skiing and riding destination.”
Snow Sports NZ CEO Martin Toomey reinforced that an annual Winter Games NZ would raise awareness of New Zealand’s world-class snow sports athletes.
“Having the Games every year would give people an opportunity to see New Zealand’s top talent competing against world, Olympic and Paralympic champions in our own backyard as well as showcasing the world-class facilities we have in the Southern Lakes where athletes train and compete.”
Sir Eion said funding was obviously the main issue in the ultimate decision.
“That’s why Sport NZ has commissioned the review, to see if it’s feasible. Several of our sponsors have already indicated their support and while much will depend on our major backers Audi and the Government’s Major Events Development Fund we have already had a positive reaction from the tourist industry. For New Zealand, and particularly Queenstown and Wanaka it would provide fantastic worldwide exposure.”
Sport NZ CEO Peter Miskimmin said they are encouraged by the development of Winter Games NZ since their inception and keen to see if they can become an annual event.
“The feasibility study will provide a strong platform on which to base this decision.”
Ernst & Young Project Director Matt Colston said five staff are currently conducting interviews with sponsors, venues, winter sports organisations, athletes, coaches, the Queenstown Lakes District Council and tourism related groups including Major Events, Tourism New Zealand and Destination Queenstown.
The feasibility report will be completed by November 2015.