Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2013 draws huge global TV audience

Global television coverage of next month’s Audi quattro Winter Games NZ will reach an audience approaching one billion households as the world’s best snow sports athletes compete against the stunning backdrop of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. For the first time ever the action is free-to-air for New Zealand viewers.
A partnership with IMG Media, part of IMG Worldwide, the world’s leading sports, fashion and media company, will see NZ-filmed footage broadcast around the world via both traditional TV and digital platforms just six months out from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Universal Sports are broadcasting ten 22-minute highlights packages to 63 million homes in the USA alone. The same packages will reach 50 million households in China via PPTV, 75 million households across Asia-Pacific via Eurosport, an additional 2.8 million households in Australia and New Zealand via ESPN plus millions more in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
Through its partnership with IMG Media, daily video news releases from the Games will reach a global audience of 400 million households via SNTV while the magazine programme, Trans World Sport will carry highlights to 220 million households.
Untold millions will also be able to watch the action on their computers and mobile devices via digital platforms including YouTube (worldwide), YOKU (China), Telstra Bigpond and Fairfax (Australia).
For the very first time, New Zealanders will enjoy free-to-air domestic coverage of Winter Games NZ with daily highlights packages and live news links on TV3 as well as radio coverage on MediaWorks’ stable of radio stations including MORE FM, The Edge, RadioLIVE and LiveSPORT.
TV3 will be broadcasting live during 3 News at 6pm for six out of the 11 days of the Games, with a half hour round-up of the best action every evening including the lead-in to 3 News over the weekends of 17-18 and 24-25 August.
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ chief executive, Arthur Klap said the level of coverage was unprecedented and represented a fantastic opportunity to showcase not only the Games but also the whole country to a global audience.
"Our partnerships with IMG Media and MediaWorks will give winter sport in New Zealand its highest ever profile and cement the Games’ profile as one of the world’s top five winter sports events. This is absolutely critical for building a permanent legacy for the Games in terms of assisting the development of young New Zealand athletes. Winter Games NZ provides them with both world class competition and international TV exposure which also benefits our commercial agreements moving forward", he said.
Television, radio and Internet coverage is backed by a comprehensive social media programme and international media hosting. Tourism New Zealand is working with Games organisers to bring targeted print and broadcast journalists to Queenstown, Lake Wanaka and Central Otago from key overseas markets including China, Japan and Australia.
Winter Games NZ 2013 takes place over 11-days from 15-25 August at the international resorts of Coronet Peak, Cardrona Alpine Resort and Snow Farm, along with the Maniototo Curling International Rink. Set against the spectacular backdrop of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, the Games also include a full Downtown Sessions festival programme featuring films, live music and entertainment in Queenstown and Lake Wanaka.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 7

From Hoorn we went cycling in a southerly direction along the dike. After leaving Schardam we cycle alongside the Beemsterringvaart. The Beemster, Schermer and Purmer are the largest 17th century polders, i.e. areas of reclaimed land. This would have been impossible without the invention of the wind-driven water pump. It may be interesting to note that the engineer of this essential apparatus was appropriately called 'Leeghwater', which means 'empty water' in English.

Edam is a good place for a break and famous for its little 'Edamers', the round cheese balls (coated with red wax for export). Together with the Gouda equivalent they are probably the best-known types of cheese in the world. Here you can sample the atmosphere of a well-maintained old-Dutch town, though now lacking its former activity. The ship-building trade played an important role in Edam's prosperity.
We continued to Volendam. Originally Volendam was a small fishing community. Practically all its inhabitants used to wear their distinctive and picturesque traditional costumes. Volendam started as a settlement when Edam dug its new, shorter waterway to the Zuiderzee in the 14th century. The old harbour became superfluous, a new dike was built and soon farmers and fishermen settled down. In the second half of the 15th century a new village came into being: Volendam.

Then we continues our way to Monnickendam, which received its municipal charter in 1355. There was a flourishing seafaring trade with the Baltic countries (Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Suriname, as there used to be an direct waterway between the Zuiderzee (the Southern Sea) and the North Sea. When this waterway was closed down, in the 15th century, the importance of Monnickendam declined. However, in the 17th century a barge-canal was dug between Monnickendam and Amsterdam and trading between these cities grew. For a long time past Monnickendam has been renown for its eal smoking. Up to this day eal and other fish is smoked in the harbours.

Then on to the former isle of Marken. It was not until 1957 that this island was connected to the mainland by a dike and it has retained its own particular character.
The houses here were built on man-made little mounds, called 'werven', to escape the regular inundations. When there was no more room on these mounds people started building houses on piles, which made them stand 2.5 m. above street level. The Marker Museum shows you how people used to live and work here. The inhabitants are the only ones allowed to use their cars, so Marken can only be visited on foot or on bike.
The last part of the stage took us through an area called Waterland. In this soggy peat land the houses and villages are hardly above the level of the water.
Once we were back at the boat in Amsterdam we went to the city for a beer in a terrace and to enjoy a superb dinner.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 6

The ship took us back to the mainland, where you disembark at Enkhuizen, a town which came into existence when two adjoining villages amalgamated. It was given a municipal charter in 1355. In the Golden Age Enkhuizen had grown so much that its harbour was well-known internationally and the beautiful gables, town hall and richly decorated churches all date from these flourishing times. Here too, you can easily find many Renaissance and Baroque monuments. At the end of the 17th century the decline set in, as a result of the wars with England and the growing importance of Amsterdam as a sea trading city. When the Zuiderzee was closed off in 1932 (by the Afsluitdijk) the herring fishing industry also came to an end. The construction of a railway line to Amsterdam, at the end of the 19th century, caused a slight revival for this little town.
We continued on the dike with a wonderful view over the Markermeer on your left and West-Frisian villages on your right-hand side. The recently built dike from Enkhuizen to Lelystad (in the Noordoostpolder) appears on the horizon. This was meant to be a polder dike for a huge new polder: the Markerwaard. However, the plans were never executed: with time perception changed. The environment and fresh water supply became more important. So today the dike is there, but no polder...
The route further took us along the dike in a southerly direction towards the city of Hoorn, where we will spend the night. The attractive city of Hoorn was given a municipal charter in 1357. In addition to Amsterdam, Edam, Monnickendam, Enkhuizen and Medemblik Hoorn was a major harbour in the 17th century. From here ships sailed for the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), America, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. The most impressive gable is the one on the former town hall, Statenpoort, which now houses an interesting museum with paintings and exhibits concerning the V.O.C. (United East Indian Company). The V.O.C. was a very powerful, almost monopolistic trading company in the 17th century.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 5

A tour around this island with its numerous cycle tracks is well worth the effort. The largest village on the island is Den Burg, which has a rural character with its circles of roads around the old church. You will find most of the shops on the island in this village. The local museum gives a good impression of island life and is housed in a building dating from 1599.
De Koog, one of the oldest villages, is the principal bathing resort and is only a stone's throw from the widest beach on the island. The nature centre nearby is a rescue centre for seals and gives a lot of information about the flora and fauna to be found on Texel.
De Cocksdorp, the northernmost village, is entered through a tunnel of interlocking tree branches, which gives it a unique character. If you cycle to the most extreme northerly tip of the island you may be able to see Vlieland, the next island making up the chain of Wadden islands. On the way up north you can pay a visit to the Slufter, a nature reserve open to the sea and the rhythm of the tides.
The villages of Den Hoorn, Oosterend and De Waal have escaped modern architectural influences and are all officially protected. In Den Hoorn some of the old 'Commandeurs' dwellings have been preserved. These were the houses belonging to the captains of the whaling ships that sailed from Texel. Texel's oldest church is situated in Oosterend. In an old barn in De Waal there is a farm museum called the Wagenmuseum (cart museum). De Waal already existed in the 12th century and was on the coastline until 1613. Then the Waalenburg Polder was drained and since then De Waal has been in the centre of the island.
Oudeschild used to be the main port of entry for Texel, but in 1962 a ferry connection was established between the mainland and the southernmost tip of the island ('t Horntje). Nowadays only fishing boats, sailing boats and boats working on marine engineering projects use the picturesque harbor of Oudeschild. Here too, the maritime museum is housed in two old granaries and next to this museum you can find the Juttersmuseum (Beachcombers' Museum) in a shed originally used for storing sea ware.

If the weather is fine you might like to combine a cycling tour of the island with a nice rest on one of the wide, clean and very peaceful beaches.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 4

The isle of Texel, which is one municipality, is the largest of the Dutch Waddeneilanden (Wadden islands). The average length of Texel is twenty kilometres and the average width eight kilometres.
The first inhabitants of Texel may date from the Middle Stone Age (80,000-45,000 BC). In 1415 the island was granted a municipal charter, which made it the largest official city of the country, in the matter of surface.
Texel is highly appreciated by bird-watchers. In springtime about 80 different types of birds breed here, mainly in the dune areas, and all in all about 300 different species have been found on Texel.
As early as in the 16th and 17th centuries the Texel sheep's cheese was well-known abroad. This was not only the usual white cheese but in particular a special, green cheese. The cheese was green as a result of the juice of boiled sheep droppings, which was stirred through the milk. However, because of hygienic reasons this was forbidden by the Dutch Food Inspection Department in 1930.
Texel is the most northerly place in Europe where spoonbills breed. These elegant white birds feel at home on the island due to the absence of their greatest enemy; the fox. The largest spoonbill colony in the Netherlands is located in the nature reserve De Geul. These beautiful birds can be watched from nearby here, from the early spring onwards.


Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee Presents Competition Schedule

The Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee has presented the Competition Schedule for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. The Sochi 2014 Games will be held from 7 – 23 February 2013.
The Competition Schedule includes information about all the competitions taking place during the Games and also the Olympic Ice Hockey tournament table, approved by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
The Sochi 2014 Games will take place over 17 days and feature 7 Olympic sports. In total, 98 medals will be awarded. During the Games in Sochi 6,000 Olympic athletes and team members from around 85 countries will come to the Games.
The Sochi 2014 Sports Program has set an Olympic record, both for the overall number of competitions taking place as well the number of new events included in the program.
In total, 12 events have been added to the Sochi Olympic Games Sports Program. As a result, the total number of events and medals in the program is 98, of which 29 will be held in the Coastal Cluster and 69 in Mountain cluster. That is 12 more than at the Vancouver 2010 Games and 14 times more than at the Turin 2006 Games.
The Games in Sochi has a record number of events added to the program, far more than Albertville (11 new events), Salt Lake City (10 new events), Turin (6 new events) and Vancouver (2 new events).
9 of the 12 new events in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Program will feature one of the most progressive sports - skiing.
In addition women will compete in ski jumping for the first time in Olympic history.
The number of competitions taking place at the Games popular among young people has significantly increased as 8 events in freestyle skiing and snowboard (4 in each discipline) have been added to the Olympic program including ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard slopestyle and snowboard parallel slalom.
Team events have also been added to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Program in 3 disciplines: figure skating, bobsleigh (relay) and biathlon (mixed relay).
The Olympic Competition Schedule has been approved by International Sports Federations, the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS), but may still undergo minor alterations. These can be followed on the official website of the Winter Games.

There are seven sports in the Olympic program. These are biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, skating, skiing, luge and ice hockey. Each of the sports is supervised by a separate international sports federation.
The next step of the program is the Olympic sports disciplines. There are 15 Olympic disciplines. There are disciplines where the name is that of the sport. These are biathlon, curling, luge and ice hockey. The remaining sports are split into the relevant disciplines. Thus, the skiing consists of six disciplines - Alpine skiing, Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, snowboard and freestyle skiing. Skating has three disciplines - speed skating, figure skating and short track. Finally, the bobsleigh includes two disciplines - skeleton and bobsleigh itself.
The number of sports and disciplines for inclusion in the Olympic program is determined 7 years before the Games (Olympic Charter). Thus, the sports and disciplines of the 2014 Games were determined by the IOC in 2007 at the IOC Executive Committee in Guatemala.
More recent changes concern the events. The number of events is fully consistent with the number of sets of medals, which will be contested at the Olympics - in Sochi there will be 98.
The Sochi 2014 Sports Program included 6 new events in April and the same amount in July 2011. The total amount of new added events in the Olympic program is 12. It is a record program increase in Olympic Winter Games history.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 3

After sailing over the Wadden sea we arrived at Terschelling.
Terschelling is the second largest Wadden island and has a lot to offer in the way of beach, natural beauty, landscape, attractions, museums and cycle paths.
We rode a route that shows us all sides of the island: the wide dunes area with access to the beaches, the sheltered area behind the dunes, the cheerful villages with various attractions, the quiet, expansive polders and the Waddendijkpad (Wadden dike path) with fantastic views of the Wadden.
The ‘kooibosjes’ (cage woods) are typical of Terschelling: small primaeval forests between boggy meadows and plots of alder thickets.
The valuable nature reserve the Bosplaat or Boschplaat sits on the eastern part of Terschelling and is nearly ten kilometres in length. The reserve originated after a 'stuifdijjk' ('drifting dike') was made here between 1932 and 1936, thus permanently connecting a formerly separate sandbank with Terschelling. A rich mudflat vegetation grew up on the sand bar, with wide stretches of sea lavender (Limonium Vulgare), 'zeealsem' (Seriphidium Maritimum, a plant similar to sagebrush), Atriplex Pedunculatus and many other salt-loving plants. Many birds nest on the Boschplaat, such as the spoonbill, great tern, northern tern, common tern, little tern, the lesser black-blacked gull, great black-blacked gull, herring gull, common gull, great cormorant and other types of birds. The Boschplaat has been given the status of European Nature Reserve.
In the dunes we came across the cranberry. This plant, originally from America, came to the island when a barrel containing the berries was washed ashore in 1845. The locals still call the cranberry 'Pieter Sipkes heather', after the finder of the berry, Pieter Sipkes Cupido. The cranberry ran wild and was discovered by botanist Fransiscus Holtema in 1868 in a hollow in the dunes called Studentenplak.
Terschelling is the birthplace of Willem Barentsz who attempted to discover India in 1596 via the North Pole; on his third attempt he got stuck and had to spend the winter on Nova Zembla.
The famous lighthouse (the oldest in The Netherlands) is the Brandaris, built in 1594 to replace the St. Brandariskapel (St Brandaris Chapel) that was swallowed up by the sea.
Terschelling has a very active choir life. Art-lovers especially like the island because of the annual theatre festival 'Oerol'. This festival was started in 1981 by Joop Mulder, in those days owner of the 'Stoep' pub in Midsland. By now Oerol has developed into one of the biggest theatre festivals on location in Europe.

200 days to Sochi 2014

22nd July 2013 set the 200 day milestone for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games to begin. With over 2,500 top sportsmen and ladies and seven Olympic sports, 15 disciplines, 98 medal competitions - including the new FIS events such as ladies' ski jumping, ski halfpipe and snowboard slopestyle - it promises to be 17 days of exciting sporting action.
Next to the world’s best athletes in focus, the Games may also see some familiar faces waving the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) flag. Young and promising talents who participated at the inaugural YOG in Innsbruck 2012, Austria, now with their sights firmly set on Sochi 2014 include YOG champions Kai Mahler (SUI) from Freestyle Skiing, young US snowboarder Arielle Gold, and flying superstar Sara Takanashi (JPN) who has been dominating ladies’ Ski Jumping in the previous season.
Meanwhile, the world will be following the longest torch relay in the history of the Olympic Winter Games. Travelling more than 65,000km, carried by around 14,000 torchbearers over 123 days, including a trip to space and back, the Sochi 2014 Torch Relay will begin in Russia on 7th October 2013.
Sochi was elected as the host city for the XXII Olympic Winter Games at the 119th IOC Session in Guatemala City on 4 July 2007. The Sochi 2014 Games will play host to the seven Olympic Winter sports (Skiing, Skating, Luge, Biathlon, Ice Hockey, Curling, and Bobsleigh) currently on the Olympic programme and will run from 7 to 23 February 2014.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 2

After sailing over the IJsselmeer we arrived at Stavoren.
Stavoren was a member town of the German Hanseatic League. This was a powerful association of trading towns that negotiated with the kings of Norway, Sweden and Denmark on behalf of the different member towns and tried to ensure that these nobles kept their promises.
Currently Stavoren is the busiest water sport area in Friesland thanks to its good location on the IJsselmeer and a good water connection with the Frisian lakes that are so well-visited, especially in the summer.
On our way to Makkum we first rode along the dike, later through pasture land. Then we pass two compact old towns with rich trade histories, Hindeloopen and Workum. Both places offer several interesting museums and attractions and in the summer it is pleasantly busy here.
Hindeloopen. Hindeloopen is situated on a peninsula in the former Zuiderzee and is very well-known for its woodcutting and painting crafts, its beautiful captains’ homes and traditional costume. Hindeloopen is great to visit on foot. You cross narrow bridges and walk through small passageways.
Then we continued to Workum used to be a thriving harbour town. The two canals in the centre of town have been filled in and now form a lovely marketplace. There is a earthenware factory here too, that still supplies the real Frisian farm earthenware in green and brown.
The Jopie Huisman Museum is a special museum. Jopie Huisman was born in 1922 in the town of Workum. In his daily life he was a rag-and-bone man, but at the same time he improved himself on producing realistic paintings. His subjects always had something to do with his main job. Rags, old shoes and other discarded things were depicted by him in an arresting way. Besides he also made portraits of people among his acquaintances. Huisman never sold his paintings, but would give them away to people who he thought deserved them! In 1986 he founded his own museum in his place of birth, Workum. He died in 2000.

Today we end in Makkum. Here you find the oldest earthenware factory in The Netherlands, the 'Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum', known worldwide for its earthenware and tiles.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 1

Our first Day!!!
We board in Ámsterdam at 2 PM. The mooring place of the barge in Amsterdam was the same than in our previous trips: "Oosterdok’/'Nautisch Kwartier" (near the Science and Technology center: ‘Nemo’, Oosterdok 2).
We left our luggage in our cabin and then we enjoyed a beer on the deck of the boat waiting for the rest of the group.
Afterwards we had our first meeting with the guide, skipper, crew and the other passengers.

We went sailing to Enkhuizen. After arriving in Enkhuizen, the bicycles were distributed and we made a short round trip of more or less 20 km.
Enkhuizen is a municipality and a city in the province of North Holland and the region of West-Frisia. Enkhuizen was one of the harbour-towns, like Ámsterdam, of the Dutch East India Company. The chartered company was established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia. It is often considered to have been the first multinational corporation in the world and it was the first company to issue stock. It was also arguably the first megacorporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.
Nowadays, Enkhuizen continues the maritime tradition and has one of the largest marinas of the Netherlands. It is also the location of the Zuiderzeemuseum, an open-air museum reflecting life in the villages around the Zuiderzee, a shallow bay of the North Sea, throughout history.

In the evening we had our first dinner on board, after which the plan for the next day and the routine for the rest of the week was explained to the group by the guide.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Island Hopping Day 0

The best way to explore The Netherlands is by bike. Holland is a cycling country. 16 million inhabitants all with bikes. If you combine it with a boat and an amazing landscape you have all the ingredients to experience an unforgettable holiday.
This is the third time we travel with Cycletours. This summer we decided to choose the Island Hopping Tour. What could be more enjoyable than sailing over the Wadden Sea and ride through the dunes and along the seaside on the West Frisian islands?

Our boat, the Anna Antal is a former barge which was converted into a luxury motor passenger ship in the winter of 1994-95. The Anna Antal has 9 cabins for 18 passengers each with their own shower, washbasin, toilet and two beds.
Our Trip will bring us to two of the most beautiful West Frisian islands, Texel and Terschelling, as well as the former island Wieringen. An opportunity to breathe in the fresh air on the windswept beaches, cycle through forest and dunes, visit the old villages and harbours, and enjoy the exceptional beauty of this part of The Netherlands. Every island has its own history, atmosphere and culinary challenges.
The guide rides along with us every day, choosing the route depending on the wishes of the group and the weather.
The Route: 
  • Saturday 20th. Amsterdam, boarding at 2.00 pm near station. Sailing to Enkhuizen, round tour 20 km.
  • Sunday 21th. Enkhuizen, sailing to Stavoren. Biking to Makkum, 40 km.
  • Monday 22nd. Makkum, sailing to Terschelling. Bike tour, 40 km.
  • Tuesday 23rd. Terschelling, sailing to Texel. Round trip Texel 40 km.
  • Wednesday 24th. Texel – round tour, 50 km.
  • Thursday 25th. Texel, sailing to Enkhuizen. Biking to Hoorn, 27 km.
  • Friday 26th. Hoorn – Amsterdam, 50 km.
  • Saturday 27th. Amsterdam, deboarding before 10 AM near station.
The Dutch Wadden Islands Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog make up part of a large Wadden area that continues along the northern coast of Germany and the western coast of Denmark.
The Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) is the largest unbroken wetland area of The Netherlands and has a great biodiversity due to the mudflats, sand bars, tidal marshes and sands, but it also has a rich history.
Sailing over the Waddenzee and putting in at harbors with your barge will give you a fantastic impression of the diverse atmospheres of the different islands.

Texel is the biggest Dutch Wadden Island by far. It's known by the fact that there's a lot to see and do during the whole year. There are nice events on regular basis, like for instance Texel Culinair that takes place in september and shows the culinary highlights of the island. A special attraction is Ecomare, the nature center on the island. Ecomare's seal shelter appeals to many visitors.

On Terschelling you can experience the nice, marine atmpsphere (a.o. at the marina in the village of West Terschelling); approximately 450 boats can anchor here. Terschelling and navigation have belonged to one another for centuries. The famous Willem Barentsz school for navigation can still be found on the island. This school is named after the explorer and cartographer Willem Barentsz who was born on Terschelling. A special event is Oerol, every year in June. It's a very special festival of theatre. The whole island of Terschelling is used as a stage in this period.

Cycling and Sailing Holiday in The Netherlands: Amsterdam

We just arrived in Ámsterdam. We have one day to enjoy this magnificient city before we start our trip.
Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands. Its status as the Dutch capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although Amsterdam is not the seat of the Dutch government which is The Hague.
In the 12th century Amsterdam was no more than a modest settlement at the mouth of the river Amstel, with open connection to the sea. In those days fishermen and craftsmen built a dam in the Amstel (now the site of the National Monument) and Amstel-re-damme was born.
Amsterdam was granted a municipal charter in 1275 and has since expanded continually.
Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade.
During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds.
The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam (in Dutch: 'grachtengordel'), located in the heart of Amsterdam, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in July 2010. The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes Amsterdam’s three main canals: the Herengracht or Patricians’ Canal, the Keizersgracht or Emperor’s Canal, and the Prinsengracht or Prince’s Canal. The three waterways run parallel to each other in a crescent shape, giving the city centre its characteristic semi-circular shape when viewed from the air.
In the 17th and 18th century Amsterdamers were the most prosperous Europeans. The most powerful merchants had their abundantly ornamented mansions built here, thus manifesting their wealth.
Amsterdam is a city to be explored on foot and this is my list of things you must see: the canals, the Jordaan area, with its many pubs, outdoor cafés and quaint shops; Vondelpark with its open air concerts; Leidseplein; Rembrandtsplein; the antique shops in the Spiegel district; Museum Square with the renovated Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art), Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.
Other typical features of Amsterdam are its numerous 'hofjes' (almshouses), the floating flower market, and the hundreds of houseboats lining the canals.
Amsterdam is inextricably related to the diamond-cutting industry, which has brought much fame to the city since the 17th century.

canal tour of Ámsterdam is a nice way to enjoy the city and  the historical canal district.

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The Red Bull X-Alps 2013 Is Over

Monaco welcomed its tenth and final athlete on Friday morning, just hours before the Red Bull X-Alps came to an end at 12:00 local time.
It is perhaps fitting that on the ten-year anniversary of the first Red Bull X-Alps, it should be Toma Coconea (ROM, picture attached) to arrive in 10th place as he has competed in every edition of the race since 2003.
The 37-year-old, perhaps more than any other athlete, embodies the spirit of the race with his determination and never-say-die attitude. Famous for the Herculean distances he's able to cover on foot — in both 2011 and 2009 he hiked over 900km — the last day saw him hike 130km to Peille. He reached the final turnpoint at 22:52 to be greeted by cheering crowds and blaring horns. He had hardly stopped since starting at 5:30am that day.
"He is crazy", said a friend of Coconea's who was running with him.
Along the way, his supporter Daniel Pisica, a Colonel in the Romanian army, smoking a cigar and with AC/DC blaring out of the van's stereo, shouted commands at him to keep him going. "Come on soldier, fight!" he yelled.
Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) arrived in 9th place on Thursday, a few hours before Coconea. Having placed third in 2011 he was looking for big things in 2013 but his result is a reminder that with the Red Bull X-Alps, it's an adventure first and anything can happen. He reached Peille at 17:17, in a very respectable time of 11 days, five hours and 50 minutes.
Race director Christoph Weber says it was one of the best editions of the race: "It was amazing for a number of reasons. The weather and flying conditions were really good making it a very fast and dynamic race. We also had a lot more teams reaching Monaco, which makes it special. When Coconea arrived they all gave him a warm welcome. It was an incredible atmosphere. The race has a very special spirit. Another reason that made it special were the mini-battles that went on — like the fight for 2nd and 3rd place and 4th and 5th place. It was a very close race for the athletes and very exciting to watch".

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 12

With just hours before the curtain comes down on the 2013 Red Bull X-Alps, the remaining athletes are putting in a last desperate effort to make it to Monaco before the race ends at 12:00 on Friday.
Anyone with still a Night Pass to play pulled it Thursday. They included Victor Sebe (FRA3), Shoichiro Tadano (JPN2), Evgenii Griaznov (RUS), Pawel Faron (POL), Honza Rejmanek (USA1) and a man renowned for his running endurance — Toma Coconea (ROM). He looked set to reach Peille late evening in 10th place having hiked 750km.
Already a record number have reached the finish line. Other arrivals since Wednesday afternoon include Ferdinand van Schelven (NED), Aaron Durogati (ITA1), Martin Muller (SUI2) and Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1).
Normally only a few athletes make it to Monaco. But thanks to exceptional flying conditions, athletes have been able to cover much more ground. On Thursday evening, it looked likely that 10 athletes would make it to Monaco — a fitting number on the 10th anniversary of the first ever race.
But for anyone behind Coconea, the prognosis for making Monaco looked grim. Lying in 11th place, Honza Rejmanek (USA1) who has never made goal in three attempts, is desperate to reach the sea. But he was still nearly 150km away.
"He's giving it everything he's got", said Dave Hanning, who is part of team USA2's support team. "But it doesn't look good and the weather is working against him".
As of Thursday evening, Rejmanek — along with all the remaining athletes— were doing everything in their power to put in as much distance as possible. It's a last desperate push that will go on through the night.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 11

The Red Bull X-Alps turned into a wild adventure Wednesday as athletes approaching Monaco took to their feet to hike the final kilometers to goal. Having come so far, the last leg to Peille often proves a torture for the athletes as the terrain is notoriously difficult to navigate.
"There's no logic to it, there's just bits of mountains everywhere", says Jon Chambers (GBR), who finished fourth on Tuesday. The Briton ran in from 12km, which took two-and-a-half hours.
"It's not high, it's just steep up and down. It's not quick terrain at all, and navigation is a nightmare — as soon as you're in the valley its impossible to know where to go", he says. "It's just a maze - there are so many paths and everything is at funny angles. It's really disorientating".
Athletes facing this battle Wednesday afternoon included Ferdinand van Schelven (NED), Martin Muller (SUI2) and paragliding world champion Aaron Durogati (ITA1). They were all hoping to make Peille, the final turnpoint, by the evening cut-off.
Van Schelven is the only one of the three with a Night Pass still to play and Wednesday he pulled it, meaning that if the other two don't make it before the 22:30 mandatory rest-stop, he will secure sixth place.
When questioned late afternoon, all he could say was: "It's hot and all up and down hill".
Other teams to pull Night Passes Wednesday were Andy Frötscher (ITA3), Max Mittmann (GER3) and Michal Krysta (CZE) who were between 250km and 350km from Monaco. The predicted flying conditions from Wetter.tv remained poor meaning any teams hoping to make the finish line before the race ends at 12:00 on Friday are in for a real fight.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 10

They had raced for nine days straight. They had not slept for almost 24 hours. They had covered a total distance of 2,500km. Despite sores, aches and physical fatigue, the race for second place between French athletes Clement Latour (FRA1) and Antoine Girard (FRA2) turned into an epic duel early Tuesday morning.
Despite flying different routes 200km down the Alps Maritimes from St Hilaire, they arrived within an hour of each other at the final turnpoint of Peille. Latour arrived first. Then Girard arrived with his supporter, arms raised, to cheers at exactly 4am and was immediately congratulated by Latour who approached him and the pair shook hands. A few hours later they both flew to the finish line on a floating platform in the Monaco Harbor.
"It's a dream. It's just incredible", an exhausted but elated Latour told well-wishers.
"I'm very happy to be third but just to make the finish line was important for me", Girard said.
It will mean much soul-searching for Britain's Jon Chambers, who was just behind the French at the last turnpoint but dramatically fell back after taking a different route to Monaco. He eventually made Peille at 16:44.
Further back in the pack, Peter Gebhart (ITA2) put in a great flight, closing the gap behind Chambers. Also well-positioned to make Monaco before the race finishes on Friday 12:00 were Martin Muller (SUI2), who has pulled a Night Pass, and Aaron Durogati (ITA1) who has already used his.
Heavy rain was forecast by Wetter.tv, so athletes such as Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), Toma Coconea (ROM) and Ferdinand van Schelven (NED) will have to pull out all the stops to make goal.
Other teams to pull Night Passes Tuesday were Max Fanderl (CAN), Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) and Mike Küng (AUT2).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 9

French athletes Clement Latour (FRA1) and Antoine Girard (FRA2) made their move on Monday in an attempt to break free from the clutches of Jon Chambers (GBR).
 Christian Maurer (SUI1) may have made the finish line on Sunday, but the world's toughest adventure race is far from over. For the last 500km, Latour, Girard and Chambers have been jostling for position, fighting for second place in the Red Bull X-Alps. By Monday afternoon it looked like the Frenchmen had got the upper hand on the Briton.
The pair took a more direct, southerly line, while Chambers pushed deeper into the mountains, hoping for better flying conditions. But Latour and Girard have also pulled the trump card of the race — the Night Pass. This allows them to hike through the night. Since athletes have to declare their intention before 12:00 local time, it was too late for Chambers to pull his in response. He will now be praying the Frenchmen do not reach Monaco by end of Tuesday.
"The race is on as never before", said Latour supporter Bruno Deloustal. "This is the craziest, wildest race in any sport I have ever experienced", he said.

However, team GBR will not be stopped. Speaking on the phone, supporter Tom Payne said: "We are revved up for a chase after the French and we plan a big XC flight".
Meanwhile, two Italian athletes — paragliding world champion Aaron Durogati (ITA1) and Peter Gebhard (ITA2) — were threatening to close the gap, adding another layer of pressure to the athletes at the front. Gebhard also elected to pull a Night Pass. 
It is anyone's guess what the ranking will be by the end of Tuesday but one thing is for sure, it will be a gripping drama to follow.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Maurer Wins Red Bull X-Alps 2013

Today at Christian Maurer arrived at Peille to complete the Red Bull X-Alps at 11:10 CET. He was then joined on his fly-down by his supporter, Thomas Theurillat.
Christian 'Chrigel' Maurer set a new record after racing from Salzburg to Monaco in an extraordinary 6 days 23 hours and 40 minutes to win the 2013 Red Bull X-Alps.
It's a hat-trick for the Swiss flying ace, who also won in 2011 and 2009. The record time — it takes over two days off the record he set in 2009 — is all the most extraordinary since the 2013 route is the longest in the 10-year history of the Red Bull X-Alps.
"It's the most amazing achievement", says race mastermind Hannes Arch. "To finish in seven days is something I never would have expected. He's just the most amazing athlete in the world. He makes no mistakes — that's his secret".
Maurer lay just 20km short of Monaco on Saturday night. Sunday morning he was able to hike to the last Turnpoint at Peille, which he reached at 11:10 local time. Although the clock stops there, tradition dictates that the race is not over until athletes make the landing float in the sea, which Maurer reached at 12:53.
Maurer has raced almost 50% faster than his nearest rival. Clement Latour (FRA1) is currently 260 km from goal. He leads a hungry pack of chasing athletes, all keen to reach Monaco before the race closes on Friday.
"Watching Maurer fly has been sublime", as one follower puts it.
Maurer has shown he is untouchable, winning the Red Bull X-Alps by a bigger margin each successive time. But let’s not make the mistake of attributing his success to his talent alone. It’s been the small details, the planning, the equipment development, the training, the check-lists, that have contributed to his victory.
And as Theurillat told me, "we are still learning, we have a list of things we want to change for 2015".
Meanwhile a huge adventure race continues with the battle for second place.

Red Bull X-Alps 2013 Winner Profile: Christian Maurer

Name: Christian ("Chrigel") Maurer
Nationality: Switzerland
Date of birth: 07/27/1982
City: Interlaken
Country: Switzerland
Profession: R&D Advance
Glider: Advance Omega
Helmet: CAMP climbing helmet
Harness: Advance Lightness
Sponsors: Advance, Lowa, Biotech, Jugendheim Sternen, Bächli Bergsport, Jungfrau-Tächi Grindelwald, Gloryfy, X-Bionic, X-Socks, Leki, Haglöfs.

Assistant: Thomas Theurillat
Nationality: Switzerland
Date of birth: 09/08/1977
City: Interlaken
Country: Switzerland

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 7

The race for second place took a dramatic turn Saturday after Frenchman Antoine Girard (FRA2) took an inspired move across the high mountains south of Sion, Switzerland in the approch to Mt Blanc. For the last few days the 33-year-old teacher, who is taking part in his first Red Bull X-Alps, has been racing alongside Jon Chambers (GBR) and Clement Latour (FRA1).
It has become the race to follow on Live Tracking. The three have been jostling for position since Turnpoint 4. But while Chambers and Latour both opted for the north of Sion, at lunchtime on Saturday, Girard forked west to fly to the south. It's a gamble that looked set to pay off. By mid-afternoon, he had gained 20km on the pair.
"In my eyes, it was a very good decisión", says race director Christoph Weber. "North of Sion there is restricted airspace, the risk of headwinds and weak thermals. But Girard is in a place of good thermals, which last for one-and-a-half hours more in the high mountains".
But anything could still happen. Meanwhile, up front Christian Maurer (SUI1) looked on the point of reaching Monaco but it was impossible to guess when exactly he would make the city-state.
Lying in 26th place, Pierre Carter (RSA) pulled a Night Pass on Saturday so he will hike through the night into Sunday. At the back, the competition is just as fierce, if only to avoid being knocked out.
Provided Maurer does not make Monaco by 06:00 on Sunday, the team lying in last place will be eliminated. (Once the first athlete makes goal, there are no more eliminations.) So there's still everything to play for.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Kilian Jornet Beats Mont-Blanc Summit Speed Record

Spanish extreme trail runner Kilian Jornet completed the ascent and descent of the 4,810 metre peak in 4 hours 57 minutes and 40 seconds. Jornet destroys the previous speed record, set 23 years ago, by Swiss Pierre-André Gobet on 21 July 1990, taking 14 minutes off Gobet's long standing record!
Jornet, 25 ran up and down the dangerous mountain dressed only in a t-shirt, shorts and trainers starting off from the town of Chamonix at 4.46am.
"The snow conditions were good, so we were able to descend easily, by sliding down on our bottoms or running", the extreme athlete said on his return.
Jornet is not going to stop at Mont Blanc, however, and plans to set records for climbing eight other mountains, including Mount Elbrus (5,642 metres) in Russia, and the Matterhorn (4,478 metres) in the Alps.
He also has his eye on the biggest mountain of them all, Mount Everest, where the current record stands at 20 hours and 24 minutes.

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 6

Monaco beckons! In less than a week since setting off from the Austrian city of Salzburg, Christian Maurer (SUI1), a 30-year-old athlete from Switzerland, is approaching the final leg to Monaco and could arrive as early as Sunday.
Predictions varied but according to the race committee, the Swiss flying maestro, barring any disasters, could reach the final turnpoint of Peille, which sits just above Monaco, as early as Sunday afternoon.
For the last week Maurer's flying display, which has seen him cover 800km in six days, has captivated the thousands of fans who are following the race on Live Tracking. His lightning progress has even stunned the paragliding community — not to mention his nearest competitors who have been left almost 200km behind him. And they include some of the world's top adventure flyers, including the current paragliding world champion.
"He's the perfect athlete", says Hannes Arch, race mastermind. "He has the perfect team, he's perfectly prepared and he makes no mistakes. That's what makes him fast".
Maurer has also enjoyed some pretty perfect weather conditions, including an easterly wind at the start and good thermals. On Friday July 12, the sixth day of the Red Bull X-Alps, Maurer had covered almost another 100km by late afternoon.
Meanwhile, the battle for second place remains as heated as ever with Britain's Jon Chambers (GBR) duking it out against Frenchmen Clement Latour (FRA1) and Antoine Girard (FRA2). Not far behind lay Martin Muller (SUI2), the Swiss clockmaker.
In a bid to move up the rankings Aaron Durogati (ITA1) pulled a Night Pass on Friday. He fell back after making a bad move Thursday and is hoping to be able to claw back some ground overnight.

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 5

 He came from out of nowhere. Maybe he felt the magnetic pull of his home country drawing him in. Or perhaps it was the prospect of being the second Swiss athlete to arrive in the paragliding Mecca of Interlaken. But on Thursday, day five of the Red Bull X-Alps, Martin Muller (SUI2) stormed ahead, overtook several teams and moved from ninth to second place.
It was an awesome display from the Swiss clockmaker. He now joins the pack of athletes desperately trying to close down race leader Christian Maurer's (SUI1) 150km lead. Muller's position was far from secure however and the other athletes showed no sign of letting him get ahead.
Antoine Girard (FRA2), Jon Chambers (GBR) and Clement Latour (FRA1) were all flying well and as the afternoon progressed had overtaken Muller. But just 15km separated them. Not far behind lay Peter Gebhard (ITA2), Ferdinand Van Schelven (NED) and Toma Coconea (ROM). This is where the real Red Bull X-Alps battle is taking place and it's anyone's guess as to who will emerge victorious.
Other updates: both Max Fanderl (CAN) and Thomas Hofbauer (AUT3) received 48-hour penalties for entering forbidden airspace around Innsbruck.
Two athletes pulled Night Passes, which allows them to hike through Thursday night. They were Pil Pyo Hong (KOR) and Raul Penso (VEN).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 4

When it comes to talking about athletes battling through the mountains, it would be easy at this time of year to assume this refers to a certain cycle race, winding its way through the French countryside.
But there is another mountain battle going on, just as thrilling, just as epic and even more challenging. The Red Bull X-Alps is a physical and mental test like no other, demanding extraordinary fitness, mountain awareness and flying skill.
As day four loomed to a close, the main action was in the fight for 2nd and 3rd places as several teams jostled for position. The Swiss flying ace Christian Maurer (SUI1) may have an unassailable lead as he entered his home country but it was the action further down the field that had fans glued to Live Tracking, which lets them follow the athletes' progress in real time.
Among the chasing pack were Antoine Girard (FRA2), Toma Coconea (ROM), Aaron Durogati (ITA1), Jon Chambers (GBR) and Clement Latour (FRA1). They were all trading places as they journeyed south from Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain to the next turnpoint of Ortler / Sulden and then into Switzerland.
Since starting, they have flown and hiked approximately 400km of the 1,031km route from Salzburg to Monaco and as of Wednesday evening, despite the fatigue and pain, they were still determined to give it everything. Maurer meanwhile was in touching distance of Interlaken, the half-way point of the race and 150km ahead of the nearest competitor, after putting in another amazing flight.
For the first time in the race, no athlete pulled a Night Pass on Wednesday, which lets them hike through the night.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 3

It's day three of the Red Bull X-Alps and the race is wide open with teams spread out over 200km across the German and Austrian Alps. It's been a day of mixed fortunes for the athletes as they battled to dodge afternoon thunderstorms that made flying all but impossible.
Race leaders Christian Maurer (SUI) and Antoine Girard (FRA2) managed to escape the hail-storms that rained down on the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. Maurer hiked up the summit, the fourth turnpoint in the race at first light, launched at 07:00 and had flown 25km before 09:30.
However he was taking nothing for granted. "It's a long race and anything can still happen so I just have to go as best as I can", he said.
Other teams meanwhile who arrived later on the Zugspitze found difficult conditions to launch due to the bad weather. Meanwhile the picture at the back just got interesting as the prospect of elimination looms.
The team in last place at 06:00 local time on July 10th will be knocked out. Iñigo Gabiria (ESP) and Babu Sunuwar (NPL) both pulled Night Passes in a bid to stay in the race. Thomas de Dorlodot (BEL), Lars Budack (GER2) and Stephan Haase (USA2), who were all in similar positions, have also decided to hike though the night.
It was also a bad day for Raul Penso (VEN). The 39-year-old received another penalty, this time for infringing air space around Zell am See and received a 48 hour penalty. It comes on top of the 12 hour penalty he received for endangering himself on the Dachstein.
Not everyone had a bad day. Jon Chambers (GBR) managed to avoid a lot of the storm clouds by flying further north of the pack and was able to move up to fourth place as of 16:00hr.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013: Day 2

Two-time winner Christian Maurer (SUI1) opened up a comfortable lead on the second day of the Red Bull X-Alps, the world's toughest adventure race.
The Swiss athlete, 30, reached turnpoint 2, the summit of the Dachstein on Sunday evening. He had pulled a Night Pass, which allowed him to hike through the night, but in the end he barely used it.
But the extra time allowed him to take off almost two hours before his closest rivals — and that's all he needed to forge ahead of the field, reaching the Wildkogel turnpoint at 13:40 and then passing the Zugspitze turnpoint in the evening, way ahead of schedule.
Flying at speeds of up to 60kph, he stormed along the Pinzgau valley. Known as 'racing valley', its south facing slopes provide near continuous lift, allowing the athletes to surf from ridge to ridge. Combined with a high easterly wind, it gave athletes perfect flying conditions as they headed west.
Hot on Maurer's heels Monday afternoon were Aaron Durogati (ITA1) and the French athletes Victor Sebe (FRA3) and Clement Latour (FRA1). Also in the lead pack was the indomitable Toma Coconea (ROM).
In other developments, Raul Penso (VEN) was served a penalty after putting himself in danger.
"He got lost on his way up the Dachstein and called the race organization for help", the race committee announced. A mountain guide was sent to find him and they found a safe place for him to bivouac for the night. The Venzuelan athlete will receive a 12-hour time penalty which he must serve after the next rest period.
Kaoru Ogisawa (JPN1), who was lying in 3rd last place, pulled a Night Pass today in a bid to move further up the field.

Red Bull X-Alps 2011: Race On...

Athletes ran through the old quarter of the city before crossing the river Salzach and climbing to the top of the Gaisberg, 1,287m where thousands of cheering spectators had gathered to watch them take to the skies.
Toma Coconea (ROM), famed for his endurance, was first to the top, in 1hr 10, to be greeted by huge cheers from his army of supporters who have travelled with him. But the race committee found he had deviated from the set route and he therefore will not be awarded the Gaisberg trophy for being the first to the summit.
That will now go to Thomas Hofbauer (AUT3). In third place was Michal Krysta (CZE). Race favorite Christian Maurer (SUI) was fourth to arrive on the summit but the first to unfurl his glider and take off.
Sunday afternoon, the athletes attempted to fly as much ground as possible to the next turnpoint, the Dachstein, 2,995m, which lies 55km straight-line distance from Salzburg. Weather conditions were favorable for flying with a moderate north-easterly wind and most athletes made good ground and were predicted to pass the turnpoint on Monday morning.
But conditions on the Gaisberg made take-off difficult, especially for Kaoru Ogisawa (JPN1). The 53-year-old suffered a collapsed wing shortly after take-off and brushed into trees. Fortunately, he emerged unscathed and with a new glider, was able to rejoin the race.
For what happens next in the drama, go to Red Bull Mobile Live Tracking, which lets you follow the athletes in real time on redbullxalps.com. And it could be about to get very interesting... As of last night, two athletes had pulled a Night Pass which lets them hike through the night. They were Christian Maurer (SUI1) and Thomas Hofbauer (AUT3). Will it give the Swiss the lead he needs?

The Red Bull X-Alps 2013 will be the sixth edition of the world's toughest adventure race. It starts on July 7th and will see 31 athletes from 21 countries battling over 1,000km across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco via 10 mandatory turnpoints, in the fastest time possible. Every kilometer must be covered either on foot or flown by paraglider.
It's a formidable undertaking and takes place in one of most breathtaking yet also unforgiving environments. Each team consists of one athlete and up to two supporters. No technical or outside assistance is allowed. Athletes can race between the hours of 05:00 to 22:30. But in a new twist for 2013 that promises to make the race even more exciting, athletes can each pull one 'Night Pass' that will allow them to push-on through the night on foot.
The race requires expert paragliding experience and a very high level of endurance fitness — it's not uncommon for athletes to hike up to 100km in a day. The 2011 edition was won by Christian Maurer (SUI) in 11 days, 4 hours and 22 minutes. The 2013 edition comes on the ten-year anniversary of the first Red Bull X-Alps held in 2003.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Countdown to the Red Bull X-Alps start

On the eve of the Red Bull X-Alps, athletes made final preparations on Saturday before embarking on the world's toughest adventure race. At 11.30am local time on Sunday 7th July, under the iconic backdrop of Salzburg's baroque skyline, 31 athletes from 21 nations will set off on an epic 1,031km journey to Monaco by foot or paraglider.
The route will see them pass 10 turnpoints as they journey through Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France. It passes iconic mountains such as the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc as well as famous Alpine towns and villages such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Wildkogel, Sulden and Interlaken.
Although athletes journey through some of the most remote yet spectacular areas of the Alps, fans can nonetheless follow their every move, thanks to Red Bull Mobile Live Tracking, which lets them follow the athletes in real time on redbullxalps.com. The race start, as well as regular updates during the race, will also be broadcast live on Servus TV.
"The Red Bull X-Alps is unbelievably hard", says race director Christoph Weber. "Athletes have to be skilled in so many areas — they have to be an incredible endurance athlete, and then they need the flying skills, but the most important thing of all is to be a good tactician".
Above all is the need to be flexible to changing weather conditions, says two-time winner Christian Maurer (SUI1). "It can be sunny one minute then you can be caught in a thunderstorm and visibility is down to 10m".
Fortunately, good conditions are predicted for the start, according to Clemens Teutsch, of Wetter.tv. "There is a risk of thunderstorms but the thermals will make for good flying conditions", he says.
Competitors come from all over the world, from Latin America to South Korea, from America to Japan.
They include some of the leading adventurers and paragliding athletes around today — individuals who have crossed continents, climbed Everest and broken flying records.
All eyes will be on race favorite Maurer (SUI1), who won the race in 2009 and 2011. But Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1), who was the surprise rookie who came third in 2011, could pose a threat. For most athletes however, just making it to Monaco is challenge enough.
On Sunday morning the start gun will fire at 11:30am and their mission will begin.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013. Three Days To Go

An air of excitement and tension has descended on Salzburg as athletes begin to arrive for the 2013 Red Bull X-Alps, which starts on Sunday, July 7th. There is now less than three days to go before the world's toughest adventure race kicks off.
All week, athletes arrive from all over the world to the race headquarters. Unfortunately for Michael Gebert (GER1), he will not be one of them. The German athlete announced that he is retiring from the race due to a persistent ankle injury.
"I tried everything but I'm simply not in condition to put up a good fight and give it my all", he said.
But for the rest of the field, they are all putting the finishing touches to their race strategies and equipment as they prepare for the epic 1,031km quest over the Alps to Monaco. Eyes will be fixed on the weather, which has seen snowfall in recent days on the mountains — and each other as the athletes size each other up.
Ahead lies a tough challenge that will test them to the limits, says Red Bull X-Alps mastermind Hannes Arch: "It's not just a physical challenge. It's about the body and the mind. The athletes have to perform for 18 hours a day and sustain that for more than 10 days. It's a real adventure!".
Athletes are not just among the world's top paraglider pilots but also adventurers with years of mountain experience. Adds Arch: "You can be the best distance pilot but you still need to have a feel for mountaineering, climbing and be totally savvy weather-wise".
The starting gun will fire at 11.30am on July 7th in Salzburg's Mozartplatz. Fans can follow the race drama as it unfolds thanks to the latest advances in GPS technology. Red Bull Mobile Live Tracking lets fans and supporters follow the race in real time, including on smartphones and tablets. Live weather information, powered by wetter.tv, 3D maps, real-time updates are just a few of the features that will bring the race to life.
The Red Bull X-Alps 2013 will be the sixth edition of the world's toughest adventure race. It starts on July 7th and will see 31 athletes from 21 countries battling over 1,000km across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco via 10 mandatory turnpoints, in the fastest time possible. Every kilometer must be covered either on foot or flown by paraglider.
It's a formidable undertaking and takes place in one of most breathtaking yet also unforgiving environments. Each team consists of one athlete and up to two supporters. No technical or outside assistance is allowed. Athletes can race between the hours of 05:00 to 22:30. But in a new twist for 2013 that promises to make the race even more exciting, athletes can each pull one 'Night Pass' that will allow them to push-on through the night on foot.
The race requires expert paragliding experience and a very high level of endurance fitness — it's not uncommon for athletes to hike up to 100km in a day. The 2011 edition was won by Christian Maurer (SUI) in 11 days, 4 hours and 22 minutes. The 2013 edition comes on the ten-year anniversary of the first Red Bull X-Alps held in 2003.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sochi 2014 preparations intensify

Sochi 2014's accreditation system will begin operations in the next week and Sarah Lewis, FIS Secretary General arranged meetings with the different logistical departments of the Organising Committee in Moscow (RUS) last week to review procedures. The 49 competitions in the six FIS disciplines on the programme of the Olympic Winter Games will be supervised and supported by 99 FIS Technical Delegates and International Technical Officials.
Arrangements for travel, accommodation and accreditation are planned in detail to ensure the officials can focus on their important and high-pressure tasks of running the competitions.
For the first time since the Olympic Winter Games in 1988, all the FIS Officials will stay in the same accommodation, the Hotel Mercure Rosa Khutor located near to the gondola station that goes directly to the Extreme Park where the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard events will take place, as well as to the Alpine Skiing courses. The Nordic discipline officials will have a short drive to reach their venues.
"The logistical preparations are now intensifying as the systems become operational. Collaboration with the Sochi 2014 team is first class and they are always responsive to our enquiries", stated Sarah Lewis.
Sochi was elected as the host city for the XXII Olympic Winter Games at the 119th IOC Session in Guatemala City on 4 July 2007. The Sochi 2014 Games will play host to the seven Olympic Winter sports (Skiing, Skating, Luge, Biathlon, Ice Hockey, Curling, and Bobsleigh) currently on the Olympic programme and will run from 7 to 23 February 2014.

Winter Games NZ Announces Final Programme

The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ announced its final schedule that now features four FIS World Cup events taking place at Cardrona Alpine Resort and two IPC World Cups at Coronet Peak. The announcement follows the decision by Winter Games NZ to move its snowboard and freeski slopestyle FIS World Cup events to Cardrona from Snow Park NZ.
"Following the questions around Snow Park NZ’s opening, it was important for us to provide our competitors with certainty around the competition and to this end we will have all four snowboard and freeski World Cups at Cardrona Alpine Resort", said Winter Games CEO Arthur Klap. "Both Cardrona and Snow Park NZ have worked hard to try and accommodate the Games and we’d like to thank them both for their support".
Under the new schedule, the FIS Freestyle Ski Halfpipe World Cup will take place on 16 and 17 August, marking the first of six World Cup events at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ that will see the world’s elite snow sports athletes striving for Olympic qualification. The 2014 Winter Olympics marks the first time freeski halfpipe and both freeski and snowboard slopestyle events are included in the Olympic programme. The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ is an important qualifying event for the Olympics given the high calibre of entries and resulting number of qualifying points available.
The FIS Snowboard Slopestyle World Cup will now take place at Cardrona Alpine Resort on 18 and 19 August and the FIS Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup is rescheduled to 22 and 24 August. The FIS Freestyle Ski Slopestyle World Cup will close the Games with the qualifiers taking place on 23 August and the finals acting as the grand finale event on Sunday 25 August.
The rescheduling has seen a change to the alpine skiing calendar with the men’s FIS Alpine Giant Slalom Continental Cup at Coronet Peak now taking place on Sunday 18 August with the women’s race on Tuesday 20 August. It has also resulted in the cancellation of the IPC Para-Snowboard Cross World Cup.
"We’re really disappointed that we will no longer be able to hold the IPC Para-Snowboard Cross World Cup", said Klap. "However, we will continue to work closely with the IPC to ensure its inclusion in the 2015 Winter Games NZ".
The Audi quattro Winter Games NZ takes place from 15-25 August 2013 featuring alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowboard, freeskiing and curling at Coronet Peak, Snow Farm, Cardrona Alpine Resort and Naseby. It is one of the top five events on the international winter sports circuit and includes six World Cups, attracting the best of the world’s elite snow sports athletes as they compete to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The two-week long Games also include a full Downtown Sessions festival programme featuring films, live music and entertainment in Queenstown and Lake Wanaka.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jazz Stars to Play Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad

From August, 1 to 4, as part of the Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad, the "Aquajazz" Sochi Jazz Festival will take place. The event will include prominent jazz musicians from Russia and the United States.
The headliners this year include the trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis quintet and world-famous vocal group and winner of 10 Grammy Awards Take 6. The best Russian jazz bands from across the country will come to Sochi including Ural Dixieland, Sergey Korenev Project, Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra of the Republic of Tatarstan under the direction of A. Vasilevskiy, Visit jazz orchestra, the Adam Teratsuyan Septet, Sochi Big Band and Sergey Pron's ProJazz group.
Other participants at the festival include the star of the Russian TV show "The Voice" Polina Zizak, plus well-known trumpet players, saxophonists and pianists.
By tradition, the festival will start with a jazz parade led by Igor Butman in the Riviera Park on August, 1. On August, 2 and 4 on stage of the Zimny theater, chamber concerts will take place, and on August, 3, a gala concert entitled "Igor Butman and the future of jazz" will be staged in the Festival Concert Hall. Recognized young talents will for the first time come together on one stage to perform in a musical team representing the new generation. At the end of the evening, the combined Moscow Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Igor Butman will play a fiery jam session.

The fourth year of the Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad is devoted to museums. As always, the organizers of the first Winter Games in the history of Russia will present the public with hundreds of the best cultural events. These include dozens of exhibitions, shows, competitions, festivals, and special exhibitions, as well as forums, workshops and educational programs that will be held throughout the country.
The Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad is a unique project held by the organizers of the Games, offering the best cultural events in the country. In 2014, visitors to the Olympic host city will be able to admire not only the sports competitions, but also Russia's cultural diversity at dozens of special sites located in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana. Since 2010, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, along with dozens of regions throughout the country, has been carefully selecting the best of Russian culture.
From 2010 to 2014, thousands of different cultural events will take place across the entire country. Each year the Cultural Olympiad is dedicated to a special kind of arts: 2010 was the Year of the Cinema, 2011 the Year of the Theater, 2012 the Year of Music, and 2013 is the Year of the Museum.

Sochi was elected as the host city for the XXII Olympic Winter Games at the 119th IOC Session in Guatemala City on 4 July 2007. The Sochi 2014 Games will play host to the seven Olympic Winter sports (Skiing, Skating, Luge, Biathlon, Ice Hockey, Curling, and Bobsleigh) currently on the Olympic programme and will run from 7 to 23 February 2014.