United against the flood

Inline hockey stars use free day to help community

05.06.2013
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Players from many countries, including these two, helped in the flood area on the free day at the 2013 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship. Photo: Martin Merk

DRESDEN – The EnergieVerbund Arena, hosting the 2013 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship, is currently the only operating sports venue Dresden, located in the German region of Saxony, which has been affected by serious flooding. During the tournament off day, players and staff joined helpers to protect vulnerable areas from the rising waters.

A bus full of participants left downtown Dresden today for one of the furthest districts of the city, Pillnitz. Normally the journey takes 15 minutes, but due to blocked bridges and the detour it took about three times longer.

The willingness to help was bigger than places were available for the strong men. 150 participants applied for help. Germany came with the complete squad and also other teams were ready to send more than just a couple of guys, like the Japanese, who wanted to give something back after the help they received after the natural disaster in their country two years ago.

“We saw ourselves during the tournament how the water got higher and higher, so we were immediately ready to help on our free day,” said German national coach Georg Holzmann.

Indeed the players didn’t have to go far to see the consequence of the heavy rainfall that lasted until Monday in central Europe.

The parking lot with space for hundreds of cars located just below the arena became a river itself. The water has come closer and closer to the rink. Until Wednesday, the first summery day during the tournament, the water level had gone up about one metre per day but has stabilized since then.

The players are lucky and can most probably finish the tournament without too much distraction.

Others were less lucky in the city that had an even higher flood in 2002. Some districts at the river had to be evacuated, in other regions of the most affected countries Austria, Czech Republic and Germany, people even lost their lives.

That’s why the players didn’t hesitate to help in the most affected areas. Players from many nations present in Dresden helped side by side to protect a heritage side with sand bags.

“Our team was there, with Canadians, Hungarians, Australians and others. We practised around noon and then drove out to the place,” Holzmann said.

“It’s not like we’d come from high in the mountains but it’s different if you see this closely on-site, normally you just see things like that on TV,” he said. “It’s praiseworthy how everybody helped.”

For once the players didn’t use their hands and muscles to score goals or defend the net against opponents, but worked together side by side to protect the site with sand bags.

Tomorrow they will go back to their usual work when the quarter-finals begin in both divisions of the 2013 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship.

Click here for the photo gallery.

MARTIN MERK
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