STOCKHOLM – 2017 will see the next co-hosted IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. But will it be in Copenhagen and Riga, or in Cologne and Paris?
The bids will be presented to the delegates from the IIHF member nations at the 2013 IIHF Annual Congress on Thursday, and on Friday they will vote on the host nations for 2017 (May 5 to 21).
The upcoming editions have already been assigned by the Congress: To Minsk, Belarus in 2014; Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2015; and Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia in 2016.
A look at the two joint bids.
Copenhagen (Denmark) & Riga (Latvia)
Having a top-level men’s World Championship in Copenhagen and in Denmark would be a premiere. The country has experience in hosting IIHF events like the Final Olympic Qualification in Vojens three months ago or Division I events in the U20 and U18 category. And it has hosted other sporting events.
But now the Danes are eager to get the world’s biggest ice hockey festival to their capital city, Copenhagen. It would be the biggest single sporting event ever hosted in the country.
Denmark put itself on the hockey map when it got promoted to the top division for the first time in 2002. Since 2003 the Danes have stayed in the top division and made the quarter-finals in 2010. Currently ranked 12th in the world, Denmark has also become a talent producer for the NHL in recent years.
“As a growing sport in Denmark, hockey has swept over the nation becoming one of our top sports. We believe that our bid can ensure the continuous growth of hockey worldwide in both young and experienced hockey nations. It is the time to make a move forward”, says Danish Hockey Association President and IIHF Council member Henrik Bach Nielsen.
The Danes tried it with a single bid in the past. This time they bid together with Latvia and with a new venue.
The new Copenhagen Arena that will be built soon would be the main venue. Once completed, it will have a capacity of 12,000 for hockey games and a smaller arena for a practice rink just next to it. It will be located some 10-minute subway ride from the city centre.
It would host one group, two quarter-final games, both semi-finals and the medal games. Copenhagen is easily reachable through its airport with over 100 destinations worldwide and has 1.9 million inhabitants. A bridge connects the city and the airport with Malmö on the Swedish side of the Øresund strait.
“Our joint Danish-Latvian bid has appointed Copenhagen as the main host city, and therefore also the host of the IIHF Annual Congress. Copenhagen is a unique and lively metropolis with many great advantages for the hockey fans, the teams and the Congress delegates; including perfect accessibility from all nations, world-leading restaurants and excellent shopping,” Henrik Bach Nielsen said.
“The brand-new Copenhagen Arena – ready for use in 2015 – is close to both the city and the team and supporter hotels. We look forward to welcoming all our hockey friends to Copenhagen in 2017.“
The secondary venue is well known to hockey fans. The Arena Riga in the city centre of the Latvian capital of 700,000 inhabitants was built in view of the 2006 IIHF World Championship, the only World Championship held in Latvia. It has also hosted other international ice hockey tournaments since as well as games of KHL team Dinamo Riga in addition to other sport events and concerts.
It has a capacity of 10,600 seats for hockey and is the home arena of some of the loudest and hockey-craziest fans. Since the Latvian national team got promoted in 1996 it has always stayed in the top division and has been joined annually by thousands of maroon-and-white dressed fans. In the last World Ranking, Latvia ended up in 11th place. The team also qualified for the Olympic Winter Games for the fourth consecutive time.
Two more rinks with three ice sheets will be available in Riga for practices, and as in 2006, fan zones are planned in the city.
Riga can be reached by its airport from many cities in Western and Eastern Europe and the U.S. The city would host one group of the preliminary round and two quarter-final games. The quarter-final winners would then transfer to Copenhagen for the semi-finals.
Copenhagen and Riga are connected through several daily flights with a flight time of 100 minutes.
Cologne (Germany) & Paris (France)
Germany and France bid together under the French slogan “ensemble pour 2017” (together for 2017). Cologne won the national contest in Germany while Paris is the French city for the bid.
Cologne is a well-known venue for international hockey fans. The Lanxess Arena (also known as KölnArena in the past) played host to the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship already in 2001 and 2010. The 1998-opened arena is the largest venue for indoor sports by capacity in Europe offering 18,500 seats for hockey.
The gold medal game in 2010 took place here in a highly successful World Championship for Germany. Currently placed tenth in the most recent World Ranking, the Germans finished in fourth place with the support of the home crowd. Something the Germans wouldn’t mind to repeat in the city of one million inhabitants.
“We are proud to apply for hosting the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with our close neighbouring country France,” said Uwe Harnos, President of the German Ice Hockey Association.
“Both countries have a long hockey history and the federations are working closely together. A World Championship in Paris and Cologne offers a great chance to develop our sport in France, Germany and Europe. We are looking forward to create an outstanding event for all teams and their fans with a unique atmosphere.”
Cologne as the main venue would host one preliminary-round group, two quarter-final games, the semi-finals and medal games. The arena is in the city centre and linked to the old town and the station by train and subway.
Cologne can be reached from the Cologne-Bonn airport and the nearby airports of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt offer further connections.
For Germany it would be the eighth World Championship on home ice while French fans haven’t seen the world tourney on their soil for a long time. France has hosted the event twice, in Chamonix 1930 and in Paris 1951 in addition to three Olympic Winter Games (1924, 1968 1992) and recent events in lower divisions.
France was away from the top division for almost four decades, but has been among the elite nations regularly since 1992 and hasn’t been relegated since getting back in 2008. France is currently ranked 14th in the IIHF World Ranking.
In France, games would be played in the most famous indoor sports venue of the country, the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in downtown Paris with a Metro station next door.
The arena was “discovered” for hockey seven years ago when the French Ice Hockey Federation started to host the French Cup Final at the venue. In each of the recent years this event has been sold out with 13,362 spectators and also international exhibition games have been hosted in the metropolis of 2.3 million inhabitants.
Opened in 1984, the arena will be renovated and expanded by 2015 so that it can offer seating for 15,000 fans for hockey games.
“We, as a federation, are committed to put all our efforts in making ice hockey bigger, in terms of people playing it, enjoying it as fans, but also in terms of public recognition and media exposure,” said Luc Tardif, President of the French Ice Hockey Federation and an IIHF Council member.
“Co-hosting such a major event as the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Cologne and Paris, together with our long-time friends and partners from Germany, would be a great way of doing so. We would benefit a lot from their experience and would get our whole ice hockey community involved in the project.”
Paris can be reached by plane worldwide through three airports. Cologne and Paris are also linked through the countries’ high-speed railway network. Five trains a day link the cities in a journey of little more than three hours. The flight time between the cities is 75 minutes.