FORT KENT, Maine — It will take an army of dedicated volunteers to make the World Cup Biathlon races in February a success.
With just more than three months to go, event organizers are marshaling their troops in preparation for the international competition in northern Maine.
“We could not pull this off without the volunteers,” said Glenn Saucier, co-chief of range for the Fort Kent World Cup. “Most of the [volunteers] will need to take off a week [from work] for this.”
Athletes will first compete Feb. 4-6 in Presque Isle at the Nordic Heritage Center before racing in Fort Kent Feb. 10-13 at the 10th Mountain Division Lodge.
Between 24 and 30 countries will send close to 200 biathletes — including many Olympic medalists — to northern Maine with 100 coaches, technicians and other support people.
Along with the athletes, European television and some 35 journalists and 15 photographers will attend.
Saucier was up at the 10th Mountain Division Lodge on Saturday morning with a crew of volunteers giving the building a good pre-season cleaning.
Nancy Thibodeau, Fort Kent event director, said at least 400 volunteers are needed in support of the races and related cultural activities around town. They would be responsible for everything from daily range setup to coordinating festivals off-site.
About 150 of those volunteers are needed every day in the competition arena, said Jeff Dubis, chief of competition. “They start out every morning setting up the range as a whole, keep scores during the races, pick up everything at the end and start all over again the next day,” he said.
For Presque Isle it will be its first World Cup competition but Fort Kent is looking at the return of World Cup first held at the 10th Mountain Lodge in 2004.
Many of the volunteers anticipated for the 2011 event were on hand in 2004, Thibodeau said.
“That seems to be universal in all World Cups, and not just in Fort Kent, that the competition volunteers come back every year,” Thibodeau said.
In fact, Saucier said he hopes to see fully three-quarters of the competition volunteers are veterans of the 2004 World Cup races.
Logistics — including transportation, housing, media relations, marketing and spectator services — experience a higher turnover among volunteers, Thibodeau said.
Volunteers are required to pass a basic certification exam with materials taken from the International Biathlon Union’s rule book.
“This gives the volunteers the basic information and background of biathlon,” Dubis said. “That way every volunteer can answer questions about the sport.”
Volunteers will go through an accreditation process — an area that also operates thanks to volunteers.
Thibodeau, Dubis and Saucier have volunteered countless hours with biathlon and Nordic competitions in Fort Kent, and the three were part of a volunteer delegation from northern Maine who traveled to British Columbia last winter to volunteer at the Winter Olympic Games.
While there they worked with former Maine Winter Sports Center director and longtime biathlon event coordinator Max Saenger, who has signed on as a consultant for the northern Maine World Cup races.
“Having Max on board is huge and is a huge help for us,” Dubis said. “He is just a wealth of knowledge plus he knows every contact internationally in the world of biathlon.”
With 30 established committees working together to organize and pull off the World Cup event in February, Dubis said, there are ample opportunities for residents to get involved.
“For anyone who wants to help there is no problem finding something for him or her to do,” he said. “We won’t refuse a volunteer.”