New impulse in Inzell
The dreamy Bavarian town of Inzell (4483 inhabitants) has begun its third skating revival. It is also high time, because the local economy, after the 'years of glor'� from 1970 to the mid nineties, is showing signs of deterioration.
Whoever walks through the village, will notice that new impulses are needed to put the smaller businesses and the hotel industry on the road again. A typical example, Hotel Zur Post, in the heart of the town. Once it was the warm beating heart of Inzell, where, for centuries post coach horses were changed. The skating elite dined there and the champions danced on the tables. But after a fire in May 2007 the building is waisting away and stands as a relic of the glorious past. The owner does not want to rebuild, potential buyers shiver and ask themselves whether the costs of reconstruction can be earned back at all.
And that for a town of standing in the skating world.
At a foothill of the Bavarian Alps in the shadow of mount Falkenstein, at the 1950's skating became rooted here. At the time the ice on the Frillensee, a mountain lake just above Inzell, was the theatre where the first skating pioneers. Gerd Zimmermann, later the ISU manager, celebrated his first triumphs here. The same goes for the brothers Günther and Jürgen Traub. Germans held their title competitions on the 7,5 meter deep mountain lake, that you could barely reach to by car. History shows that a tractor with snow plow sank through the ice. The ice master drowned. The tractor is still laying on the bottom.
The almost inaccessible Frillensee, constantly plagued by heavy snowfall which was difficult to clear manually, had a better successor in the village lower down called Inzell with the Ludwig Schwabl Eisstadion. In 1965 the ice stadium was opened and promptly became a Mecca for skating, together with Davos, Hamar and Alma Ata.
"Rien de Roon, a pioneer in Inzell in the mid sixties, remembers that word quickly got around that there was supposed to be a 'miracle rink somewhere in southern Germany'. Since then he has returned each year. World records, the Ard and Kessie period, the record breaking competitions for the Golden Skate, the Olympic victories of local hero Erhard Keller, all of this brought about a blooming period of unknown proportions. Whoever wanted to be successful would train in Inzell. The combination of the height (693 meters above sea level), the favourable swirling wind below Falkenstein and the generally good weather conditions made Inzell into a factory for breaking records.
The Norwegian, Dag Fornaess won his first European all-round title in 1969, ahead of the Dutchman Kees Verkerk and the Swede Zweed Göran Claeson. It was the start of a magnificent rivalry between the Dutch and the Norwegians.The Friesian Atje Keulen-Deelstra won the European all-round championship in 1972, ahead of the Russians Nina Statkevitsj and Ljoedmilla Savrulina. Thousands of Dutchmen had gone to Inzell to witness this event. They imagined they were experiencing a fairy tale at the time. The Norwegian Sten Stensen was crowned world champion of the all-round in 1974, the Dutchman Harm Kuipers won silver. In 1986 in front of thousands of fellow countrymen Hein Vergeer won the World title by a hairsbreadth from the Russian Oleg Bozjev (second) and his countryman Viktor Sjasjerin.
In 1996 the world all-round skating championship for men was won by Friesian Rintje Ritsma, followed by his countryman Ids Postma and the Japanese Keiji Shirahata. With the women the laurel wreath went to the German, Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann.
The last title competition in the Ludwig Schwabl Eisstadion in 2005 showed surprising long distance champions: The Japanese Joji Kato (500 meter), the Norwegian Even Wetten with the 1000 meter, his countryman Rune Stordahl with the 1500 meter, the American Chad Hedrick with the five kilometre and the Dutchman Bob de Jong with the 10.000 meter. The world title of Team pursuit skating went to the Dutch trio Erben Wennemars, Carl Verheijen and Mark Tuitert.
The women's world title for 500 meter went to the Chinese Manli Wang. The Dutch Barbara de Loor snatched the World title for the 1000 meter in front of the nose of local favourite Anni Friesinger, born in Inzell. In the 1500 and 3000 the Canadian Cindy Klassen was strongest. Anni Friesinger made good her tournament good at home by winning the five kilometre on home ground. The World title for Pursuit Skating went to the German trio Anni Friesinger, Daniela Anschütz and Sabine Völker.
Recognized any regularity in the above summaries? The answer is easy. All the champions come from skating countries that have a lot of tradition and the means.
During the battle for the title in 2005 there was a call for the construction of a new covered ice stadium. The hall must put Inzell back on the map, sportswise as well as economically. Because the village, a climatic spa, one hour's drive south east of München, is in need of a new impulse. The amount of stayovers and the amount of guests has dropped drastically in the last few years.
This impulse, a new roof for the old ice rink, will come with the opening of the Max Aicher Arena. The ice rink is named after Aicher, owner of the building company that built the ice rink. The construction started in May 2009 and will be complete in the winter of 2011.
The building costs are not negligible: 36 million Euros. We were in luck that it was during the crisis, says Inzell's mayor Hobmaier. Suddenly there was an economic stimulus package available for construction orders. Three quarters of the budget is paid from the budget of the Federal government. Bavaria contributed 15 percent, Inzell and the Traunstein district had to contribute 10 percent. Eventually the village had to pay 2,1 million Euros. Hobmaier: This was a 'once-in a lifetime' opportunity for our economy. The building uses only one third of the amount of energy used by the roofed ice rink in Calgary, this is done by recycling the heat that is generated by the freezing machines. The wooden roof beams are so solid that they can carry a snow load that is equivalent to the weight of 5600 Volkswagen Golfs.
With the new skating rink, the KIA Speed Skating Academy and the opening of a camping in the spring of 2011 we have done what is necessary to give the village new impetus, says Hobmaier, first citizen of Inzell since 2002.
He says that the people are going through difficult times. In eight years time the amount of stay-overs in the 4700 tourist beds dropped from 780.000 down to 530.000 during the high season period. Everyone in the vicinity felt the pinch. But it is senseless to point out culprits. Now we have a nice new packet in the winter and the summer. And with the opening of both the skating academy and ice rink we will soon have the world press running around here. Finally, we will have lots of action once again.