The Games, now under the leadership of new CEO Marty Toomey, were first held in 2009 and run biennially until last year when the Winter Games NZ board gave the go ahead for the event to become annual. Marty, who was previously chief executive of Snow Sports NZ and replaces Arthur Klap as Winter Games NZ CEO, says going annual will be challenging but it is the right direction for the event. “The challenge is to maintain the standards that have been achieved since 2009. But, it is very important for the growth of the snow sports industry and the event industry in New Zealand that we take this step.” He says the 2017 Games were an outstanding success based on the quality of the athletes competing, the standard of the facilities, the extent of national and international broadcast coverage and the economic return generated throughout Otago. “Those factors gave the board and New Zealand Major Events, which has committed to provide funding until 2021, the confidence to hold the Games every 12 months.” “When you look at the number of athletes who went on from last year’s Games and performed well at both the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang we know our event is working at both a local and an international level which is definitely the right platform to go annual from.” The centrepiece of the 2018 Winter Games NZ are the FIS Junior Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships 2018 – a prestigious competition within the Games framework. “The cream of the world’s young talent will compete along with our leading junior freeskiers and snowboarders,” says Marty, “and we will undoubtedly see many on the podium in 2022 at the Beijing Olympic Winter Games.”
RAISING THE BAR
The founder of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ, Sir Eion Edgar, has always had his eye on the event becoming an annual one in Central Otago. He believes the outstanding results of the New Zealand Olympic team at PyeongChang in 2017 are an important endorsement for the Games and the time is right. Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and freeskier Nico Porteous both won bronze medals while Beau James Wells took a fourth placing and Carlos Garcia Knight, a creditable fifth, in their disciplines. Sir Eion says additionally, 25 out of the 30 medallists in the Park and Pipe freeski and snowboard events at PyeongChang, two of the three curling mixed doubles medallists, 6 out of 33 alpine medallists and 13 of the 30 Para snowboard medallists, as well as a gold medallist in cross country skiing, had competed at the 2017 Winter Games NZ reinforcing that it is one of the most internationally significant events New Zealand hosts.