BIATHLON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN RUHPOLDING – From a fringe sport to crowd pleaser
Building the Biathlon Center of Excellence in 1977/78 as well as holding the Biathlon-World Championships in 1979 was were some of the most important fundamental decisions taken by the municipality of Ruhpolding. But not even the biggest optimists could anticipate how quickly biathlon would develop during the four World Championships events held in Ruhpolding between 1979 and 2012. During the first World Championships, the much of the event in the new stadium was largely improvised aside from the impressive opening ceremony in the ice skating arena. Race organizers and officials, media athletes and track wards were storming the new main building from the first day.
Small groups of spectators surrounded the tight start and finish areas and the athletes waiting in the ski-jump landing area. Visitors could only view a few hundred meters of the track itself, and those who wanted to follow the actual race, constantly had to run between shooting range and the scoreboard at the finish line. In addition, aside from the individual, sprint and relay race, there were no other disciplines that could be transmitted via the media. The fact that the teams from the USSR and East Germany dominated the races contributed to limited spectator enthusiasm. This only changed with the 1985 Biathlon-World Championships. With the medals won by Peter
Angerer in the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo as well as the bronze medal win by the German relay team the popularity of the sport rose in Germany. Even if the facilities remained largely the same, the spectator numbers increased rapidly with the top native athletes such as Angerer, Fischer and others. Over 30,000 spectators came to the Ruhpolding Biathlon stadium at the foot of the Zirmberg and cheered on the athletes from 25 countries on three race days. This was also when a Biathlon World Championship was broadcast live on television for the first time and turned the sport into a true winter sports trend-setter.