Games may be back this year

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It has yet to be signed off but the Winter Games may be back in Central Otago later this year.

Outgoing chief executive Arthur Klap said the board was yet to confirm the decision, but planning was going ahead for the event to be held in 2018.

The decision to hold the games annually goes back to 2015, when the board commissioned a report by Ernst & Young to determine whether a yearly event would be viable.

The report recommended that it would be feasible, and Mr Klap said the organising committee had been working towards a yearly event ever since.

When the games were first started, it was a question of whether to hold them every four years or every two, he said.

“What’s happened over the past 10 years – we’ve had five of them – is the games have been highly successful.

“Internationally, there’s been strong demand from the athletes for the games to be on an annual basis, and also the sponsors have shown a desire for it to be annual.

“The key to it is us being able to secure sufficient funding to be able to go ahead.

“That’s been the only hold-up at the moment. We’re very close but we haven’t quite locked down all the money necessary yet to make the games viable.”

Last year’s games attracted 865 competitors from 42 countries and the final report showed $13,400,669 was spent in Central Otago.

The event was moved into tourist shoulder season, in the last week of August and beginning of September.

Mr Klap said the change in date was well received by venues and the tourism industry because it took the pressure off the August period, and the games would continue to be held over this period.

“Interestingly, when I was doing the initial planning for the games in 2007 and 2008, the shoulder season started in mid-August but obviously, with tourism growing so much, shoulder season has moved to September, so we’ve moved with it.”

There were plans to expand and include the Mt Hutt Ski Arena in the 2019 games, but for the time being the programme itself would stay the same, he said.

“We’ve made a lot of changes and learnt a lot from each one. I think now there’s going to be quite a strong consolidation of the programme as it is.

“Because we’re following the Olympic cycle, the programme will follow the Olympic cycle.

“In the year straight after the Olympics the focus will be more on younger, up-and-coming athletes and we will have fewer world cups.”

He was expecting slight fluctuations in athlete numbers, depending on the Olympic cycle.

His hope was for the games to stay on the calendar and continue to bring benefits to the region.

“They’re certainly established as one of the world’s leading multi-snowsport events.

“What I hope is that it becomes financially stable enough to be a legacy for many years to come and provides a benefit for the local community every year for 20, 30 years.

“The visibility through social media and international television coverage encourages people to come any time.

“It’s just putting Central Otago on the map ..

“It’s good for Naseby, Wanaka, Queenstown, the whole region.”