The 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Alpine Skiing World Championships have been officially opened following a festive ceremony this evening at the Palazzetto dello Sport in the town square of Sestriere, Italy.
The Opening Ceremony was a celebration for the athletes who are in the ski resort competing this week at the Championships, and included a series of dances performed by three couples who represented the people of the region.
Welcoming speeches were given by Local Organizing Committee President Gianfranco Martin and IPC President Sir Philip Craven.
IPC President Sir Philip Craven said: "When you have such a wonderful competition and when it is the first World Championships following the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, it is the start of a new cycle. So it is the ideal year for nations to bring their latest and most dynamic athletes to the World Championships and this is the time to see the new competition as we start to move forward to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games."
Local Organizing Committee President Gianfranco Martin said: "In organizing the World Championships after last year`s World Cup here in Sestriere, we are really happy to have the chance to carry out the best organization possible and show this region of Italy how important Paralympic Sport is for the community."
The athletes over the past two days have been preparing on the slopes tirelessly, hoping to use the practice runs for the races in the Downhill event tomorrow. Today was the second and final day of that event's training for the athletes.
IPC Alpine Skiing Sport Technical Committee Chairperson Sylvana Mestre said: "The slope in Sestriere is fantastic and the athletes like it. The team has done a great job here and the athletes were really happy, saying it was a great slope and the snow was perfect and I think that tomorrow we are going to see a very good race."
Part of those preparations this morning saw able-bodied top ranked skiers like Italy`s Daniela Mereghetti, who will be competing in the upcoming FIS World Cup, ski down the slope before the practice runs began.
"It is important to go down the slope because I compete in two weeks, but really it is for the Paralympic athletes here, so I can tell them what to expect. The conditions are perfect for competition," Mereghetti said.
Up in the timing and data office, the staff was making sure that the athletes will see correct finishes on the first day of competition.
IPC Alpine Skiing Race Administrator Hugh Daniel said: "Today we have been working together with the local timing crew in Sestriere to produce factor results, including split and final times.
"Yesterday we prepared all the entries for the competition, doing a bib draw for the start of the race."
German skier Thomas Nolte was one of the many skiers who went down the steep slope, aiming at perfecting his movements before Sunday`s race begins.
"The course was really good to practice on today. There are corners like between gates seven and eight where you really have to work hard at the turns, which will be great for racing," Nolte said.
Overall, the final day of preparations was successful, and skiers can expect the best conditions over the next few days in Sestriere.
IPC Alpine skiing Race Co-ordinator Adrian Bellwald said: "It was excellent today, and if we have the same conditions tomorrow then we will be very happy. The coaches have said that the course and setting are great for the upcoming competition.
"At the beginning it was windy during the inspection in the morning, but then the weather cleared and should be perfect for tomorrow. The light is best between 11-13:00 and that is when we will have our races."
Taking place in Sestriere, Italy from 15-23 January 2011, over 130 athletes from 23 countries are expected to compete at the venue which was used during the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. The World Championships will be the biggest gathering of Paralympic Winter Sport since the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
The 2011 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Sestriere, Italy will include Downhill, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super-G, Super Combined and Team events.