26 August 2020

The European Youth Olympic Festival Vuokatti 2021 is only six months away and our Finnish friends are stoked at the thought of welcoming the continent’s best young winter athletes next 6-13 February!

A gender-balanced sports programme will feature alpine skiing, biathlon, ice hockey, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, short track, figure skating and nordic combined. Forty-eight European National Olympic Committees (ENOCs) have confirmed their participation and between 1,700-1,800 athletes are expected to attend the Games.

We reached out to EYOF 2021 Secretary General Marita Kaipainen to get the scoop on preparations for the 15th winter edition of the EYOF, including safety measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to find out a little more about life in the heart of the Arctic Lakeland.

Enjoy … and see you in Vuokatti in 2021!

Q: How are preparations going for what is being billed as the first Olympic event since the start of the pandemic?

A: Preparations have gone well and are largely on schedule. Due to the COVID-19 situation, there have been a few minor delays, such as the confirmation of flight connections (Finnair) and therefore some delays in opening the registration for the Chefs de Mission seminar.

Q: Planning an event during a pandemic must have its challenges. Can you tell us about them and how you have been coping?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic has had surprisingly little impact on our arrangements at the local level. Whenever possible, we worked from home and held meetings remotely. Even the remote meetings of the organizing committee were a great success with more than 40 participants. Of course, COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to the arrangements. For example, it has made it much more difficult to find business partners and sponsors, and as I have already mentioned, there are some uncertainties in air transport.

Q: What special measures will the organisers be putting in place to ensure safety while allowing athletes to mix and really enjoy the event?

A: We are constantly following the guidelines of the government and health authorities on how the safety of the participants should be secured. It is difficult to estimate what the guidelines and regulations will be next year but automatically we will pay attention to safety gaps, hygiene and protective equipment.

Q: With some 2,000 athletes already on the preliminary list to attend Vuokatti 2021, how are NOCs reacting to traveling to Vuokatti next year?

A: Currently, there have been surprisingly few inquiries about COVID-19’s influence … We believe that NOCs are looking forward to coming to Vuokatti but are also aware of the whole global situation and uncertainty.

Q: What can athletes and other visitors to Vuokatti expect from the event and the region?

A: We hope to be able to offer real Finnish hospitality, functionality and beautiful winter experiences and landscapes. We are surrounded by all necessary services and yet we are in the middle of beautiful forests and lakes. Here, participants get to experience Finnish customs and traditions and train in Finnish nature. We are a real winter sports country and we have strong experience in organizing sports events, so hopefully participants will have a great experience in excellent conditions.

Q: As you have already secured more than 400 volunteers for the event, how are the local communities preparing to welcome NOCs from all over Europe next year?

A: Everyone is really excited to be a part of the organisation and community of this event and meet people from all over the Europe.

For more information on the 2021 EYOF, click here.