Olympic team head sets his sights on Turin
Werner Augsburger, the technical director of the Swiss Olympic Association since 1999, will lead the Swiss delegation to the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.
After his debut at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the Swiss is looking forward to being in charge of his first winter games.
The smile is disarming and the handshake firm. At 1.95 metres tall Augsburger looks every inch the top sportsman he once was.
A player for the Swiss volleyball champions, Leysin, in the 1980s, Augsburger later took up a post with the ski firm Rossignol as head of sales in Switzerland.
In 1999 he became technical director at Swiss Olympic and a year later attended the Sydney Olympics. "The Olympic opening ceremony in Sydney, in the presence of than 100,000 spectators, was really something," Augsburger recalled.
"For me it was an unforgettable entry into the world of the Olympics."
Learning the ropes
Shadowing Hans-Jürg Wirz (the director of the Zurich Weltklasse athletics meet), Augsburger got to grips with the role of head of the Swiss team at important sporting events.
Turin will be the second time he has assumed full responsibility for the Swiss team. "There is nowhere you can go to learn that," Augsburger told swissinfo.
"You have to know how to deal with the athletes and how to navigate your way around the complex and cumbersome system. Just think that at the Summer Games there are about 200,000 people accredited who have to eat, sleep and be transported around..."
The role of head of the Swiss Olympic team is to achieve the best possible performance from the athletes.
"The head of the team is the manager of Swiss top-level sport," said Augsburger. "He is a sort of CEO brought in to coordinate all the elements including selection, management of the Olympic village or villages, press relations and the medical team."
Considered a nation of winter sports' enthusiasts, Switzerland will send a team of 130 athletes to the Turin Games. The definitive lists will not be known until the end of January.
While the selection criteria are more stringent than in the past, the presence - for the first time - of both the men's and women's ice hockey teams has added to the numbers.
The nearness of Turin has enabled Augsburger to remain within the budget of close to SFr2 million ($1.5 million).
"The two main expenses are travel and accommodation," said Augsburger. "We often have to rent apartments outside the Olympic villages because the distances between these villages and the competition sites are too great."
An interesting detail about this year's games is that Swiss Olympic is renting parking spaces at the three competition sites –Turin, Sestrières and Bardonecchia – for a total of SFr80,000.
Swiss Olympic hopes to come away from Turin with at least eight medals. Four years ago at Salt Lake City the Swiss team managed to win 11.
"We have the potential to win eight medals," Augsburger said. "Based on the results of the past two years."
"In top level sport you need three key players in each discipline to be sure of winning a medal. At the Olympics conditions are difficult because the stakes are so high."
The Swiss have real medal chances in seven disciplines: snowboarding, bob, curling, ski jumping, ice skating, skeleton and alpine skiing.
swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux
Werner Augsburger is married with two children.
After university in Bern (1978-82) he worked as a teacher and played volleyball for Leysin.
From 1991 to 1999 he was head of sales for the Swiss branch of Rossignol.
Since 1999 he has been technical director of Swiss Olympic.
Head of the Swiss Olympic team in Athens in 2004, he will also lead the team to the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
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