At the FIS Congress in Costa Navarino this spring, FIS took the opportunity to meet with David Hidalgo Vila, CEO of Soldeu-Grandvalira, to talk about the upcoming FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Finals in Andorra.
Soldeu will host the World Cup Finals in 2018/19. How excited is the community?
It will be the largest event ever in alpine skiing in Andorra, so everyone is looking forward to it we are very excited.
How did Soldeu become a World Cup host?
After four years of hosting European Cup races, we organised an Audi FIS Ski World Cup in 2012 with tech events for the ladies and again in 2016 with a super-G and alpine combined for the ladies as well. We also staged the FIS European Cup Finals in 2014, 2015 (speed disciplines only) and in 2018.
What’s the biggest challenge hosting the Finals compared to a regular World Cup?
I think it’s mainly the duration. World Cup Finals are organised over a whole week, so it involves another level of commitment of the hotel owners, the volunteers, and all the stakeholders. But also the marketing concept has to be adapted. It’s not only a ski race – there are also a lot of side events, and in a week you get a chance to present Andorra and show what Soldeu and Andorra can offer to the world. So the programming and the creation of a full-event concept is different than with a regular World Cup.
Can you tell us more about the big construction project in the finish area?
Yes, we are building a platform over the river that has to be finished by the end of November. After the World Cup in 2012, we noticed that the finish area was quite narrow. The feedback from FIS officials was similar, as they said that the race courses are fantastic, but that there was not enough space in the finish for all the facilities that a FIS World Cup requires. So we had to react and find a solution for the Finals. A platform of almost 16,000 square meters is being built, with parking for 450 cars and trucks underneath. This is not only solving the problem for the World Cup facilities, but historically there has been a lack of parking in that area and a beginners' area at the bottom of the resort, so there will be a legacy for the resort’s future as well.
How big is the enthusiasm of the community in Andorra?
In Andorra we have a big advantage. We can say that we are the only country in the world where 100 percent of the kids from 4-18 years of age are skiing, because it is part of their academic curriculum with every Wednesday during the season dedicated to skiing and snowsports. So the ski clubs and all the schools are deeply involved, and the young people will also participate actively in all the events. Then our main markets are Spain and France, and with the proximity they will also be very much involved. Especially for Spain, who has had a lot of ups and downs in its alpine skiing history, we hope that we will be able to bring an “up moment”.
The “ups” usually come with the success of athletes. Andorra was granted a wildcard for the team event at the World Cup Finals and the other countries agreed. What was the idea behind it?
Andorra is a very small country, and in any sport you need a huge base to create one top athlete. Andorra is working on it, but you can’t improvise an athlete in five or six years. We hope that the chance to be part of the World Cup Finals is motivation for the athletes and they will become icons for the younger generations. Part of our communication campaign will be based on “back your country” so this is a good way for everyone to support our athletes and for the kids to have someone to follow.
In St. Moritz a young athlete from Belgium beat Marcel Hirscher in the alpine team event. Could the story be repeated in Andorra?
Yes, that would be amazing. But let’s see because one of our best athletes crashed recently and suffered a knee ligament injury, so we’re not sure if he will be back. It will be difficult for sure, but who knows? In any case, we feel that the enthusiasm for this event is huge in Andorra and that the Organising Committee is putting in all its’ efforts to host a great event. We can't wait to be there in March for the last fight for the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup 2018/2019 crystal globes!