The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 is counting down to a spectacular opening ceremony at Coronet Peak ski area near Queenstown on 21 August, which will feature American alpine superstar Mikaela Shiffrin competing in a full field of international athletes, in a night dual slalom race under floodlights.
CEO Arthur Klap said attracting someone of Shiffrin’s calibre underlines the status of the Games internationally and the Coronet Peak Night Slalom should be a strong drawcard for local people to see stunning world-class skiing action in their own backyard.
“Mikaela is the current Olympic, World Cup and World Champion in slalom and her appearance along with other highly ranked US women is a coup for the Games. Also on show will be former world number eight and Great Britain’s most successful woman alpine competitor, Chemmy Alcott.”
The Coronet Peak Night Slalom has a purse of $30,000 and amongst the alpine men chasing the ultimate prize are David Chodounsky, the reigning US national slalom champion, and a strong group of World Cup Austrians and other Americans as well as prominent current and former Kiwi alpine specialists Jamie Prebble, Angus Rose and Andrew Wylie.
Around 600 athletes competing in alpine skiing, adaptive skiing, cross country skiing, curling, freeskiing and snowboarding disciplines will converge on Queenstown, Wanaka and Naseby for the Games which require around 500 volunteers to ensure the smooth running of all the events.
Klap said the Mixed Doubles curling tournament at the Maniototo International Curling Rink at Naseby is of particular significance because the discipline has recently been included in the Olympic programme and makes its debut at PyeongChang in South Korea in 2018.
“In anticipation of the Olympics a group of Korean Olympic officials will be at Audi quattro Winter Games NZ this year shadowing our key team members involved in freeskiing and snowboarding,” said Klap. “The International Ski Federation (FIS) suggested they watch and learn from us how to run freestyle ski and snowboard events as part of their development for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. This certainly endorses the quality of events that Winter Games NZ run.”
With just one week remaining before the launch of the Games Klap believes organisation is well in hand.
“We are in very good shape with our planning ahead of where we have been at the same time in previous years. I put it down to a combination of good early snow, which the venues we are working with are very upbeat about, and the growing level of expertise within the Winter Games NZ team.”
Klap said there was a lot of energy focused on fresh initiatives this year including staging the opening and closing ceremonies on snow for the first time, improvements to the Games Villages in Queenstown and Wanaka and the advent of a free Adventure Film Festival presented by GoPro.
The opening ceremony will be held before the night slalom finals and will feature a ski down by young school children carrying individual country flags and ski instructors holding flares.
A Maori welcome will be followed by official speeches by Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Chairman Sir Eion Edgar and the Minister for Business, Innovation and Employment the Hon Steven Joyce who is officially opening the Games.
The Minister for Sport the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman will officiate at the Coronet Peak Night Slalom’s awards ceremony before a major fireworks display signals the launch of the 2015 event.
The closing ceremony on 30 August is scheduled for Cardrona Alpine Resort following the signature freeskiing and snowboarding Big Air featuring some of the world’s best known and talented athletes including snowboarding legend, Japanese superstar Yuki Kadono.