Post Olympic championship dilemma

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games are over but the winter sport season goes on. Athletes, officials and fans could be forgiven for feeling a degree of event fatigue at this point in the season.

The first athletes to return to work were the ice hockey professionals of the NHL, who barely had time to pause for breath before resuming competition about 48 hours after the climactic gold medal match between Canada and the USA. Events to take place in the coming weeks include the World Figure Skating Championships, the World Allround Speed Skating Championships and numerous World Cups in such sports as biathlon and cross-country skiing.

For those athletes who have enjoyed success and are still hungry to compete, there is an opportunity to bask in adulation for a few more weeks. Some of those who missed out narrowly in Vancouver will be seeking revenge but others will struggle for motivation or perhaps even withdraw. Meanwhile, event organisers and rightsholders may find it difficult to attract media and public attention unless they have Olympic stars involved.

International sport is generally based around four year Olympic cycles partly because the profile of the Games is significantly higher than any of the individual World Championships. Several of the winter sports reduce their schedule in an Olympic season but they face a dilemma because they also want to maintain visibility and showcase their new heroes straight after the Games. Event bidders have learned that a championship held soon after the Olympic Games is likely to be missing some of the biggest names. In contrast, a major championship a year earlier is particularly appealing because all the leading contenders will want to show their best form and the event may count towards Olympic qualification. It may also be held as a test event in the Oympic venue.

In short, the post-Olympic anti-climax is an inevitable consequence of the four year cycle. There is no easy answer for athletes, federations and event organisers: if there are no more events after the Games then the sport is virtually forgotten until the next season; however, any events that do take place will seem lacking in one way or another. 

Homecoming parades and media attention will distract the most successful athletes, at least for a while. Those whose dreams did not come true will have more time to consider their return to the international competition circuit. Such is the harsh reality of international sport.

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