With Falun 2015 finished the Nordic skiing world is going to have to take a long hard look at itself and adjust for the superiority of the Norwegians
As the snow powder settles after the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, the sponsors banners are taken down, and the small picturesque venue of Falun recovers from its collective hangover, the teams all return home across the world to nations as distant from Sweden as Japan and Canada. Some go home in magnificent triumph, others not so much, and, perhaps alarmingly, which of those applies tends to depend on whether you’re Norwegian or not.
That the Norwegians do well at a combination of cross country skiing and ski jumping shouldn’t perhaps surprise anyone, their country is, after all, replete with the basic ingredients required to practice those sports, notably a) snow and b) mountains. Not, of course, that ski jumpers use mountains per se any more, but you try explaining to someone in the Netherlands why ski jumping is a sport in the first place, lacking landscape context it seems to lack a fair amount of point.
Unfortunately it is the very fact that their level of success surprises no one that is becoming a problem. Sponsorship coordinators such as Jacob Lund of the DNB banking firm warned before the games were even underway that there was an inherent danger in gambling news reporting and TV coverage would be maintained should Norway come to dominate the sport and it’s competitions. Any loss of coverage in these foreign markets likely to scare off sponsors from the foreign teams.
The sponsorship of Norwegians athletes is, of course, not in question, and indeed the level of assistance they gain steadily puts them at an advantage over the foreign competition, which merely recycles the problem making it grow ever worse. There are discussions afoot to perhaps limit the amount of assistance each competitor could receive, but as yet, they are only discussions and the decline in a wider interest in the sport might be quite rapid in coming after the Falun results.
Northug And Johaug Grab Glory
Now it’s not just that Norway won, its the way they did it. We’ll leave aside the poor Swedes who had to see their arch rivals triumph quite so much on Swedish soil (er…snow), these neighborhood grudge things are so passe, and move straight onto the quite ghastly statistics. For a start the medal table as a whole is manifestly, nay, evidently imbalanced. From a range of 58 nations who sent competitors only 14 won any medals, and you can guess who won the most.
Norway‘s haul of twenty medals in total beat the hosts Sweden who won 9 medals in total, or the Germans (who came in second overall) with just 8 medals. Further down the French got six, the Austrians five, and no one else got more than two medals at all. This is not to dismiss their achievement but are those two medals, a silver and a bronze in the case of Canada going to keep TV networks willing to broadcast the event?
Worse still they won more than twice as many gold medals, 11 in all, as even the Germans, their nearest rivals, who only grabbed five top-of-podium spots over the course of the entire championships. The hosts got just two gold medals, the French, Austrians and Russians one apiece, everyone else had to settle for second place. The attendance of over 280,000 people over the 11 days of competition perhaps mainly due to Norwegians hopping across the border to see their heroes win.
Petter Northug, heavily tipped to do well before the games given his extraordinary form and prowess, didn’t disappoint those who like bet on sports in Norway via Come On! Sportsbook, coming away with four golds, two for his individual efforts in the 50km Classic and the Sprint, plus two more for his team efforts in the 4x10km relay and Team Sprint events, whilst his countrywoman Therese Johaug got three for the 4x5km Relay, the 30km Classic and the 15km pursuit.
Swedes Disappointed With Just Two Golds
In the ski jumping Rune Velta got two golds, as did the German’s Carina Vogt, getting a silver and a bronze along the way too. Severin Freund also got two golds, one individual and one team, but despite some interesting performances from individual German competitors it does remain a little worrisome that the Norwegian domination extends to umbrella even the nations closer at hand that should, one would think, be best placed to compete with this competitive juggernaut.
The Swedes, for instance, got a couple of golds in the Men’s 15km freestyle and Women’s 10km freestyle, but after that were beaten into second place four times and third place just three. You can guarantee the Swedes wanted more than just 9 medals from the games and you can bet the Germans wanted to put on a better showing than they did, but without the backing of sponsors, or rather with the decline in backing from sponsors likely in the future, what hope do they stand?
How many executives at Italian or Japanese broadcasters are going to think their schedules can’t live without a sport at which their national teams try so valiantly just to win 2 medals out of 63 on offer? Are there, do we believe, a great number of people in these nations that wants to tune in to see another display of complete Norwegian dominance and success? Unless you’re taking advantage of Norwegian gambling laws in Oslo to back your countrymen, you just might not wish to at all.
The results of Falun 2015 have backed up the suspicions of worried sponsors and now the Nordic ski community is going to have to see what it can do to re-balance the playing field that has so woefully tilted just one way or risk spiraling into a niche sport which can’t commercially sustain itself over the long term. The future of the Nordic skiing as a whole now rests on how much the sport itself is willing to adapt in order to survive.