FORT KENT, Maine — International competition is coming back to the St. John Valley and organizers have a year to get ready for the 2011 Biathlon World Cup at the 10th Mountain Lodge.

“We are excited to be hosting the world again,” Nancy Thibodeau, event director said at a press conference Friday at the lodge. “It’s going to be a busy 12 months.”

Joining Thibodeau at the press conference were Max Cobb, executive director of the U.S. Biathlon Team and Carl Theriault, director with the Maine Winter Sports Center.

Fort Kent is one of two North American stops on the 2010-2011 biathlon world cup circuit and the athletes will travel to northern Maine from competition in Lake Placid, New York, around Feb. 13, 2011.

“There are a lot of positives and some real challenges to hosting a world cup event,” Thibodeau said. “The biggest positive is the community and the people here.”

Fort Kent hosted a World Cup biathlon in 2004 and Thibodeau said it left an impression on the participants.

“The European athletes and coaches loved coming here and still talk about us,” she said. “We are known to be a well-organized committee by those athletes and coaches.”

At the same time Thibodeau said finding places for the expected athletes, coaches, support staff, media and fans from up to 26 nations continues to be the planners’ biggest challenge.

“We do know there are a lot of beds in the area,” she said. “We are making sure there is equal and fair housing for everyone [and] we will meet all the challenges.”

The International Biathlon Union shares that confidence and at the start of the press conference Cobb presented the 10th Mountain Lodge with a Grade A license from the IBU — the only one granted in North America.

“Members of the IBU said their site visit was by far the best organized inspection ever,” Cobb said. “I am so pleased for all the dedicated people here.”

A venue must have the IBU Grade A License to host a world cup event, Cobb said.

“There’s been a huge learning curve since we hosted the 2004 World Cup,” Thibodeau said. “We did a lot of things the right way, we learned a lot and we can go forward based on what we learned.”

Cobb agreed.

“As an organizing committee you are a lot stronger now with a depth that did not exist in 2004,” he said.

More than 20,000 spectators came to the 10th Mountain Lodge over the three days of World Cup competition in 2004 with millions in Europe viewing the event on television broadcast live from the venue.

This past year, Cobb said, it is estimated biathlon competition drew more than 800 million viewers in Europe.

Since 2004 Fort Kent has hosted a variety of Nordic events including Olympic biathlon time trials, international ski competitions and Paralympics winter games.

In addition, the MWSC in Presque Isle has hosted junior Olympic completion and North American championships.

With a year to plan and pull off the event Thibodeau encourages anyone wanting to get involved to contact her.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.