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St Moritz world championships open with gala concert

Flag bearers gather during the opening ceremony in St Moritz RTS

The Alpine World Ski Championships have opened in the Swiss ski resort of St Moritz to the sounds of an opening concert featuring DJ Bobo.

This content was published on February 1, 2003 - 20:53

The one-hour opening ceremony - held in sub-zero conditions - was a mix of the traditional and modern.

Pascal Couchepin, the Swiss president, and the Swiss popstar, DJ Bobo, welcomed some 8,000 participants at the ceremony with a plea for unity.

After the Swiss national anthem was sung, Gian Franco Kasper, president of the International Ski Federation, used Switzerland's fourth official language - romansch - to declare the championships open.

The programme included references to Engadine myths, before DJ Bobo led a rendition of his hit-single "Lets come together" - the official championship song.

Ready to race

Organisers have pumped mountains of cash into the event, in a bid to cement St Moritz's reputation as a world-class resort - or as the slogan goes: "Top of the World" for winter sports.

Millions have been spent on preparing the slopes and ski infrastructure alone, allowing smoother access to the starting line, Piz Nair.

The Swiss financial magazine, "Bilan", estimates the total cost of the event at over SFr1 billion, when indirect costs such as renovation of hotels and catering facilities are taken into account.

At SFr80 million, the official budget for the St Moritz championships far outstrips that of other sporting events in Switzerland planned for 2003.

Showing off

The championships have provided the resort in the Engadine with the perfect opportunity to flaunt its riches before the eyes of the world and to use the fierce media scrutiny to its advantage, says Chappelet.

"St Moritz wants and needs to show that its major ski resort - a Mecca for sports," he says.

Some 18 television stations will broadcast 450 hours of programming over the course of the event, with a staggering 300 million viewers expected to watch the competition.

Chappelet believes the event is also a major boost for Switzerland, which last hosted a major sporting event in 1987 when the ski championships were held in Crans Montana.

The first event - the men's Super-G - takes place on Sunday.

swissinfo

In brief

The first race - the men's Super-G - took place on Sunday.
Some 400 athletes are competing in ten races during two weeks.
The event's official budget is SFr80 million, with St Moritz and other regional authorities paying almost half the amount.
The International Ski Federation is contributing SFr30 million, Swiss Olympic SFr1.3 million and other sponsors SFr3 million.
Some 10,000 spectators for each event are expected to generate SFr7 million in revenues.

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