winter sports | INTERVIEW: Ski races in Dubai: ‘It was weird’

Status: 11/24/2021 2:42 PM

Professional skateboarder Erjon Tola won his first FIS race at an indoor ski area in Dubai. He spoke in an interview about heat, environmental protection and the role of the World Ski Association.

Ergun Tula knows the great world of figure skating, has participated in the World Cups and World Championships, and represented Albania, his native country, in four Olympic Games. The 34-year-old opened his final season as a skater from Wednesday to Saturday in a strange and controversial way: at the age of four. Lower Tier Slalom Enter FIS League in the United Arab Emirates.

The day after his return to his Italian homeland, Tola spoke to the sports program via a video phone call.

Sports Show: “Mr. Tula, you wrote a piece of winter sports history, and won your first official FIS race in Dubai. How did you happen to get started there in the skating rink?”

Ergon Tola: “Friends invited me and I said, why not? It could be a good experience.”

And how was the experience?

Tola: “The conditions were strange. I live in Cervinia in northern Italy, near Zermatt. I went skiing there all autumn on the glacier. In Dubai, on the other hand, it was very hot, 30 degrees. Then -5 degrees at the time. Huge refrigerator, As I call the skating hall – that was very strange.”

How were the sports conditions in this huge refrigerator? “

Tola: “Compared to other indoor ski resorts, the slope was very steep and I really liked the track. The snow was compact, and it wasn’t as snowy as usual at indoor ski resorts. The organization was perfect too. We had three runs a day because the distance was so short. This enabled us to keep going. in improvement.”

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There are discussions about plans to possibly even hold the World Cups in indoor ski areas as in Dubai. Do you think this makes sense?

Tola: “Maybe. You can certainly build a suitable slope for slalom. The FIS has already held the World Cup in a parallel slalom in Oslo, not in the hall, but on an artificial slope. It was my first time in Dubai. And after what I saw there, it came to my mind: Nothing is impossible. The city really liked it. Many sports already organize competitions there, in golf, everyone knows the “race to Dubai”. Why isn’t skating next? ”

Start: After golf, tennis and Formula 1 is skiing now too?

In fact, the UAE has been attracting international sporting events to the country for more than 30 years. The The best golfer in the world Tennis players come to Dubai every year Formula 1 pilots to Abu Dhabi.

The UAE and other Gulf states use such events, among other things, to improve their international image. Human rights activists talk about one in this context “Sport” of authoritarian states. It now appears that skateboarding has also become associated with the wealthy emirates.

Sports Show:There are people, given the climate crisis, who don’t think it makes sense for athletes from a European winter to travel to Dubai to compete there at 30 degrees in a skating rink. How do you see this discussion?

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Tola: “First of all, I was told that the indoor ski area in Dubai was completely green. However, I did not ask how this was achieved. I also think that the indoor ski areas in Germany, France and the Netherlands have similar emissions. FIS also organizes league entry races in these halls.

Inset: Snow thanks to energy from oil and gas

Is Dubai’s indoor ski area, which opened in 2005, really “green”? On their website you can just read about efficient cooling and recycled ice. The hall is energy consuming like a medium sized hotel, there are no exact figures.

Dubai uses almost exclusively abundant and climate-damaged oil and natural gas to generate electricity. Investing in solar energy has only been going on for a few years. In addition, water is needed for artificial snow. The Emirates, located in the desert, produces fresh water largely by desalinating sea water – which also requires a lot of energy.

Sports Show:How do you think long flights to Dubai are a problem? “

Tola: “It’s always about what the federations decide. Even the Olympics in Beijing aren’t quite close for Europeans and Americans. It’s been that way for 100 years. Now in Dubai we’ve been less than 15 drivers from Europe. Buying at the same time, has a lot of People are expensive and polluting cars. The 15 people who travel to Dubai should not be blamed in light of the massive, sometimes senseless, consumption around the world.”

However, the odd picture remains that skaters are competing in Dubai at an outside temperature of 30 degrees, even though they can do so at home with significantly less effort.”

Tola: “This is correct. But ski areas also consume a lot of energy. The larger the area, the greater the environmental impact. The UAE just wanted to host a race on its soil. They only had one chance for that: the indoor ski area in Dubai. If the FIS allows such races, then they can also take place in the desert – drivers also drive there. If it is an interesting place that brings new experiences, why not? The FIS will monitor the effects on the environment. If you decide at some point that there are no indoor races, that’s it.”

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The FIS wants its new shadow President Yohan Elias Growing: More competitions in more countries and on more continents. From your point of view as a professional skater, is this the right way to go? “

Tola: “I don’t know to be honest. If it’s about the development of sports around the world in general, I’d say yes, that should be the way to go. More exercise means better health and possibly less crime. But given the environment, the FIS has to think about how it wants to promote skiing around the world – in a more environmentally friendly way. This is a difficult task. “

Interviewed by Volker Schulte


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