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It started from Holmenkollen

The world’s best skiers had suffered a bitter defeat in the world’s best skiing competitions. Finnish cross-country skiers beat the Norwegian champions in their own Holmenkollen Games in February 1922. Anton Collin from Ähtäri became the first non-Norwegian skier to win the traditional 50 km race. Tapani Niku from Haapaveri completed Finland’s success with his second place, to the horror of the Norwegians.

When the Finnish skiing reputation was ignited with the victory in Holmenkollen, it was time for action. Strong sports influencer Lauri “Tahko” Pihkala took the initiative. Pihkala was the editor-in-chief of a Finnish sports magazine called Suomen Urheilulehti. He published the article “Nordic joint skiing”. It proposed Lahti as “Finland’s Holmenkollen”.

The people of Lahti were invited to establish a competition organizing organization, the Lahti Ski Club. In March 1922, sixty influential people gathered to Hotel Lahden Seurahuone to found a skiing club.

And the following winter, the first Lahti Ski Games would be held on the Salpauselkä ridges.

The story of a hundred years

Collin starts

The stadium was ready in February 1923 for the all-time Finnish skiing competition. The first of the first competition was the ski champion Anton Collin, the conqueror of Holmenkollen, who won the 10 km competition. The bitter cold took the number of spectators to 4,000, even though 17,000 admission tickets had been printed. A total of 76 Finnish skiers took part in the five competitions. Tapani Niku won the 50 km main competition, and even had time to eat snacks in Messilä during the journey. The ski jumping was won by Sulo “Usa” Jääskeläinen from Vyborg.

I guess the intention is to go around the track in one day.

Track Manager Toivo Nieminen 1925

Lahti Ski Games finally became international in February 1926, when the Lahti Ski Club organized the FIS cross-country, ski jumping and combined congress competitions – they later received the World Championship title. Nordic and Central European athletes came to Lahti, ten from Norway and Sweden, three from Czechoslovakia, two from Germany and one from Latvia, a total of 26. The greatest Finnish hero of the Congress Games was the world champion in 30 and 50 km skiing Matti Raivio. Raivio also fell into a wolf pit in the middle of the trip, but it didn’t slow down the pace.

Lahti’s jumping hill was good. In good spring weather, you can jump closer to fifty meters.

World champion in ski jumping Tullin Thams, Norway, 1926

Lahti had claimed its place on the map of international competition organizers quickly, just three winters after the first Lahti Ski Games. Disappointment came the following winter, when the competitions had to be organized as nationals again. The much-wanted Norwegian athletes didn’t bother to come, despite the promises. The consequences were visible at the cash register.

In March 1928, the city’s streetscape already had road signs in foreign languages, poster stands on street corners, and advertisements in shop windows. The sidewalks were sanded and flags were raised on the flagpoles of the citizens. The decorations of the games remained the same every year.

We were sincerely delighted to see the annual work achieve such great success.

VIP guest Erik von Frenckell 1929

In seven winters, Lahti Ski Games had become a party for the whole town. Although it didn’t happen easily: Lahti Ski Club’s management, factory manager Juho Hillo, mayor Otto Lyytikäinen and editor-secretary Jaakko Tervo pondered many winters about how to get cash into the empty competition chest.

International at last!

On February 26th, 1930, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat had a one-page story: “Will the skiing in Salpausselkä be canceled?” And that’s what happened. The snowless winter brought the first cancellation of the Lahti Ski Games. But Lahti could not be without any games. Lahti Ski Club organized an inter-member competitions in semi-snow: Paavo Nuotio on the hill and Anselm Knuuttila in 18 km skiing won.

The Finnish Ski Federation was founded in 1931 and immediately moved to Lahti, to the horror of the people of Helsinki. The federation was led by Lahti Ski Club’s chairmen Juho Hillo, Tauno Aarre and Yrjö Kaloniemi.

In 1932 Lahti Ski Club turned 10 years old. The anniversary was celebrated on the slopes and hills. On Sunday, 16,000 townspeople marched to the stadium through the celebrating city.

Marvellous competitions and competitors. I will come again to follow the Lahti Ski Games.

The president P. E. Svinhufvud 1932

The jumping hill was renewed under the leadership of Paavo Nuotio. The hill was raised in such a way that it enabled 50 meter jumps. Lauri Valonen’s 50.5 meters was immediately marked as a new hill record.

In 1933, a record number of competitors from 13 different countries took part in the Lahti Ski Games, new guests came from as far away as Japan. The Japanese Miyamura and Kuriyagawa took part in downhill and combined with weak success, but showing great sportsmanship.

An audible change to the atmosphere of the competition was the new, up-to-date loud speakers that were arranged on the ski track. Now it was possible to play phonograph music during the intervals, and the band that had entertained in many games was let to go.

Ski jumpers are mostly men with good balance organs and nerves.

Lauri Valonen ja Paavo Nuotio: the book Mäenlaskun opas (A guide to ski jumping) 1933

In March 1934, for the first time, a Saturday evening ski jumping with electric lights and fireworks with Bengal lights were organized.

Internationality began to be seen in the list of results as well: In 1935, Sweden’s Axel Wikström won in skiing as the first foreigner. Lahti Ski Club’s Lauri Valonen, on the other hand, took the ski jumping victory from the Norwegians, who had been dominating the sport four times.

Lahti is the only possible place for Olympic skiing.

Commentator Martti Jukola 1936

In 1937, Lahti police chief Iivari Tuomisto came up with the idea of a sports and cultural center for the ski stadium that would meet the demands of the time: “It could be used as an art museum alongside the competition times”, he thought. Former wrestling champion Tuomisto also saw a swimming facility and a sports field in the area.

A team of 200 Finnish people took part in the second World Championship held in Lahti in 1938. In addition to the host country, participants came from 12 countries. On the opening day, the jackpot hit immediately, when the Finnish relay team skied gold in the 4×10 km distance.

There were nine Finns and one Norwegian in the top ten of the 50 km skiing in subzero weather. Kalle Jalkanen won the 50 km and Pauli Pitkänen won the 18 km skiing. The five-day World Cup events were attended by 100,000 spectators, which was quite good in a city with a population of 34,000.

The war years

Our club’s activities were reduced to non-existent in the past year, as the state conditions developed during the fall to become extremely dangerous.

Lahti Ski Club’s annual report 1939

The Winter War prevented the organization of the 1940 Lahti Ski Games. Most of the members of the club and the organizers of the competition put on their uniforms and headed towards the eastern border. “The ski club’s armed men immediately had to face the enemy on different parts of the front. When the snow came, most moved to separate ski formations.” At the beginning of the war, the club handed over its stadium area and building to the needs of the military establishment. During the aerial bombardment, the buildings were practically not damaged, the restaurant building and the jump rack suffered minor damage.

In the intermission in the winter of 1941, 417 competitors took part in the games, including small teams from Sweden and Germany. The audience turned out to be a record number, almost 36,000. “Even in this year of scarcity, when citizens have more work than usual and less money than usual, lovers of Salpauselkä faithfully come here for the game days”, wondered Helsingin Sanomat.

A fairy tale is beautiful, but a skiing track is almost even more beautiful.

Tahko Pihkala in Salpausselkä 1941

During the Continuation War in 1942, the games could not be held. Tt was replaced by “Miniature Salpauselkä”, the championships of the Soldiers’ Association and the national ski jumping competitions as Lahti Ski Club’s 20th anniversary competitions. Most of the jumpers came directly from the front lines, whose participation in the competition was possible by the very receptive attitude of the mass departmentsrequests for leave. The competition was won by Lauri Valonen. The competition was the only one of its kind in a country at war in 1942.

In March 1943, part of the Finnish Championship were organized in Salpausselkä. 18,000 spectators attended the “War Championship”.

In 1944, the Swedish representative team participated in the games. Despite the state of war, the games were successful. The size of the audience was only 8,000.

In the last year of the war, 1945, Lahti Ski Games was still held in difficult conditions. Journalists from all over the world came to war-ravaged Finland.

I’m sorry for stopping the 50 km, but when the going didn’t taste good at all, then what’s the point.

Master skier August Kiuru 1946

A storm tested the otherwise successful audience record races in March 1946: 59 km of the race course had to be swept clean of needles with a broom. Brooms ran out from Lahti marketplace. There were almost 50,000 viewers.

In the Lahti Ski Club’s 25th anniversary competition in 1947, there were a total of 377 competitors in all sports, including teams from Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. Women’s 10 km skiing was a new sport in the competition programme.

In 1949, there were paid ticket sellers for the first time.

Time for audience records 

Stormy weather ravaged the Salpauselkä in 1950. The weather hindered the large hill’s competition, lowered the score level and some of the audience stayed at home. There were only 40,046 spectators. “It is said that the most enthusiastic samba fanatics danced last night on Teivaanmäki in some completely unheated barracks. The Harry Lime Theme played from morning to night in every restaurant,” reported the magazine.

The competition programme was changed. Women’s skiing was moved to Saturday and 4×10 km relay skiing and youth ski jumping competition were added to Sunday’s program in connection with the actual large hill’s competition. The system of five judging judges was also new in ski jumping.

Already at school, I skied in the boys’ division because the level in the girls’ was too low.

Siiri “Äitee” Rantanen

In 1952, Lahti Ski Games became a real celebration – Lahti Ski Club’s had it’s 30th anniversary. For the first time, the stands turned out to be cramped, when a total of 82,569 people tried to participate. It was a new audience record. The first school tickets were sold for the games, more than 12,000 of them. In honor of the celebratory games, the Finns won all the skiing events.

In March 1953, fierce duels were seen on the tracks, when Sweden’s Nils Karlsson and Finland’s Veikko Hakulinen faced each other for 50 km, Haku-Veikko won, Mora-Nisse came in third. Siiri Rantanen and Mirja Hietamies competed in the women’s 10 km, Äitee took it. In the combined Heikki Hasu once again defeated the tough Norwegians.

All Finnish championships in 1954 were won on Säle skis.

Esko Järvinen Oy’s ski ad 1954

“The participants of the special ski jumping already give a glimpse of their fitness in the evening lights. Dizzy youngsters perform daring aerial flights, double jumps and every year something new…” Lahti Ski Club advertised the evening party in the manual program in 1954.

In the Games of Lahti’s 50th anniversary and Lahti Ski Club’s 30th anniversary in 1955, a magical threshold was crossed: 106,552 paying spectators. Soviet athletes came to Salpauselkä for the first time.

Preparation for the World Championships gave its mark to the pre-world championships in Salpauselkä in 1957, athletes from five countries, 73 foreign participants. Soviet women took a triple victory in skiing. 109,648 spectators redeemed the admission ticket, again a new audience record.

Yesterday, the country was mainly governed from Lahti.

The title in Helsingin Sanomat about the Games’ diplomats’ stand 1955

The Finns showed their skiing and ski jumping skills at Lahti’s World Championships in 1958. Kalevi Hämäläinen won the 30 km, Veikko Hakulinen the 15 km, Paavo Korhonen the combined competition.

To the delight of the home crowd, Lahti Ski Club’s own Juhani Kärkinen won the ski jumping world championship. Finland took a total of 10 medals from the Games. There were 204 591 spectators who redeemed an admission ticket.

The ski stadium in Lahti worked brilliantly as an arena for prestigious competitions. The International Ski Federation was certainly not making a mere formal gesture when, after the Lahti competitions, it stated that the 1958 World Ski Championships were the best organized world championships up to that point.

Batman, Robin and Veikko Kankkonen 

In 1960, there were competitors from eight countries at the Lahti Ski Games. In the Finland-Norway cross-country race, the sports were 50 km, combined and youth 10 km. A record 43 068 school tickets were sold in schools in southern Finland. There were about 10 000 people watching Friday’s ski jumping practice – with the attraction of Juhani Kärkinen, Veikko Kankkonen and Niilo Halonen.

What on earth happened to that tip of the jumping hill when I slipped so badly.

Juhani Kärkinen failed in his second jump in 1960.

The ski jumping in 1961 became extraordinary: Veikko Kankkonen, Koba Tsakadze and Otto Leodolter jumped the same result and shared the victory.

The 1962-63 games were three-day long. In 1962, the total value of the awards was over 2 million FIM. In the 40th anniversary competition of Lahti Ski Club, the innovation were two whole roasted bulls and grilled chickens. The railway strike and the bad weather on Sunday put a damper on the number of spectators in 1963: 83 084, although the limit of two million visitors was broken.

In the winter of 1964, there was Viki fever: measured by all performance metrics, Veikko Kankkonen was the world’s best ski jumper. He won all the major competition except the large hill of the Olympics. A new audience record of 114,082 paying people was set. The competition area of the stadium was changed so that the skiers were now more visible to the public. Large hill’s wooden downhill was destroyed so that air currents would not disturb the competition. Lahti Ski Games moved into the IT era: the IBM computing center came to help with the results.

The pit could be excellently used, for example, as a land swimming pool.

FIS architect Heini Klopfer 1964

A three-jump ski jumping event was organized for the first time in Lahti Ski Games in 1965 – in the sun and ten degrees below zero, in excellent wind conditions. There were 39 505 spectators in Sunday’s large hill’s day event.

A novelty in 1966 was the team competition of ski jumping. The following year, the women’s relay race was added to the program. The evening’s large hill became an official team ski jumping competition in 1970. The most famous guests of the evening party in 1967 were Batman and Robin, who came by helicopter. Robin looked much taller than in the TV series.

The most important thing is to persevere and learn from disappointments, because they happen to every top athlete.

Ski jumper Veikko Kankkonen

In January 1968, the Tiirismaa skiing slope was ready. The slalom moved from the Ski Stadium to Tiirismaa. To the largest ski slope in Southern Finland, which was 565 m long with a height difference of 103 m.

At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the Lahti Ski Games were at their quietest. The wooden ski jump was considered small and old-fashioned, and it was no longer of interest to large groups of people. Television had become more common, and it broadcast telecasts of prestigious competitions all the time. Bench athletes became sofa athletes.

Near the edge of the cloud 

The constant decline in the number of spectators at the Lahti SKi Games was a concern of the organizers. New enticements, a 50 km joint start and a qualification required to enter ski jumping were planned. The delay in the completion of the new large hill brought its own spectator ceiling.

It is certainly not worth investing more in the show side.

Chairman of the financial committee of Lahti Ski Club Erik Linderborg

The number of spectators hit rock bottom in 1971 – the crowd fell below 50 000, the lowest number since the war years. With the 1972 Games in mind, actions were taken earlier than usual. A record amount of competition information was passed on to the public. Television was adopted as a campaign tool. The advertising budget was doubled.

The decline of the Lahti Ski Games seemed to be behind 1972, the year of the 50th anniversary of the Lahti Ski Club. The stadium was being built in a new era and the large hill K 116 “Betoni” was completed for the Lahti Ski Games. The hill competition disappointed the audience, as the winning foreign jury moved the competition to the old wooden hill with a 3-2 vote, even though the wind was not too strong in the opinion of the Finnish judges. More than 95 000 people were present.

The sport or sports after which the test will be taken is not announced in advance.

Chief doctor of the Games Seppo Tikka

The 1974 Games were watched by 83,444 spectators. The number of visitors to the Games exceeded three million. The third millionth viewer was Mrs. Maini Lindqvist from Lahti, who was congratulated for the achievement.

Saturday’s ski jumping competition in 1975 is considered one of the best in the world – all world champions participated. The victory went to Switzerland’s Walter Steiner. The evening ski jumping competition was jumped for the first time on large hill under artificial lights.

IThere is an explanation for the Austrians’ speeds: new skis and a new type of competition suit.

The winner of the hill Sveitsin Walter Steiner 1975

The Lahti Ski Games were successful in 1976 both athletically and financially. There were 97 199 paying spectators – the anticipation of the World Championships 1978 hovered in the stands. The following year, more than 110 000 spectators were reached, until then 185 000 people came to watch the world champions.

In the preliminaries in 1978, strength and skills were tested with thousands of workers. Performance venues, equipment and premises were already at the level of the WC. The athletes wanted to get to know the upcoming WC terrains: 377 competitors from 19 countries came to the preliminaries.

Free North is at the top!

Paavo Noponen World Championships 1978

At the opening ceremony of the 1978 World Championships, the Finnish heroes of the previous World Championships Paavo Korhonen, Juhani Kärkinen and Veikko Hakulinen carried the Finnish flag. FIS chairman Marc Hodler delighted the Finns by thanking them for the Games in Finnish.

The Games were especially memorable for the golden skiing of Helena Takalo, Hilkka Riihivuori, Marja-Liisa Hämäläinen and Taina Impiö. Crowd was also inspired by Tapio Räisänen’s gold medal. The Games were televised in seventeen and radioed in eight countries. The number of television viewers was estimated at more than 200 million.

The people of Lahti could be proud of their great work. The race arrangements were excellent. The organizers received numerous letters of thanks from abroad, in which Lahti’s competition arrangements were raised close to the “edge of the cloud”.

If you want to win, call a Finn 

The Games of 1980 were also a competition of the ski jumping World Cup, for the first time in Salpausselkä. The World Cup is FIS’s highest-level international series competition in Cross-Country and Ski Jumping. The first large hill’s World Cup competition in Lahti was won by Canada’s young Steve Collins, who jumped to a hill record of 124 m. Collins was surrounded by hundreds of admirers, and was only able to escape with the help of security. Biathlon, which was included for the first time as an official sport, brought a new look to the stadium.

The measure of the success of a ski party is the atmosphere.

Jukka Kuikka, magazine Suomen Kuvalehti

More than a hundred thousand spectators brought the old-time competitive atmosphere to the 1982 Games. The competition program already had six World Cup competitions. 3 000 kilos of sausage, 1 500 kilos of potatoes and 13 500 cocoa beans were reserved for the games. It all ended before Ski Jumping.

“The City of Lahti and the Lahti Ski Club were winners in the Lahti Ski&Sun Games”, was the title of the magazine in 1983. The games were held in excellent conditions and saw e.g. Horst Bulau and Matti Nykänen’s struggle for the World Cup victory. More than 100 000 spectators attended the games that started already on Thursday.

Sarajevo Olympic medalists Nykänen and Jari Puikkonen drew 116 482 spectators to the 1984 Games. The hill heroes were in a class of their own, both on small and large hills. The competitions entered the Guinness Book of Records with the world’s largest samba orchestra: at the evening party, 33 462 samba players played their blue can rhythm instruments to a world record.

Are you lonesome tonight?

Mato Valtonen from the large hill at the evening party

The combined Gundersen method was used to compete in 1985. In a spectator-friendly system, the winner of the hill section starts the course first, the hill points are converted into minutes.

In Lahti Ski Games 1986, the king distance of the Games, 50 km skiing, was no longer seen. The trip no longer interested Finnish skiers so much that it would have been worth organizing it. 50 km had been the main distance of the Games since 1923.

In 1988, at the Lahti Ski Games, a combined team race of 2-man teams was contested. The V-style of Ski Jumping was seen for the first time when Sweden’s Jan Boklöv presented his invented longer stretching style. In the 1980s, free style also became a novelty in Cross-Country.

I’ve signed at least a hundred autographs and been in at least a thousand photos.

WC mascot Nestori 1989

Finland was overwhelmingly number one in the medal table at its own World Championships in 1989: 6 gold, 5 silver and four bronze. The people of Lahti were shouted by Jari Puikkonen, who took the World Championship gold medals in the large and team hill, and Jaana Savolainen, who skied the World Championship gold in the women’s relay team. During the breaks of the combined hill race, there was a pair slalom and a downhill race on snowboards, for the first time in Finland.

The 455 700 spectators at the World Championships is still an all-time record. “If you want to win, call a Finn” read the banner in the grandstand.

Lahti by night 

In the winter of 1992, thousands of girls screamed. Superstar Toni Nieminen was expected to land from the heights. The Toni boom attracted 119 200 spectators to the games and a million FIM to Lahti Ski Club’s coffers – half of which, according to the agreement, belonged to the ski association.

In 1993, there were slump readings: only 76 600 spectators and no Finnish victories in any of the five sports.

Lahti suurhalli today: the main guest is Matti Nykänen, singing.

Ski center scoreboard 1992

In the 1990s, youth series and alpine sports were eliminated from the competition program and the focus was on Nordic skiing and biathlon. New sports were the pursuit in 1995, the sprint relay in 1997 and the men’s and women’s mixed relay in 1999.

In 1996, a joint environmental project of Lahti Ski Games and Lahti Ski Club was implemented during the Games. Its goal was to preserve Salpausselkä’s ridge landscape as well as possible, as well as sorting and collecting garbage.

Black glasses, flashy clothes and lying in the goal area are now in.

Newspaper Helsingin Sanomat about the current style of young skiers, 1994

The number of spectators at the games in 1997 fell below 60 000, partly because the games were divided into January and March, so that the latter had Ski Jumping and Combined. In 1997, pastor and stuntman Reijo Kontio installed rockets on his downhill skis and jumped a 400-meter jump from a flaming jumping hill on a wire. The light rockets lit up a little before their time and Kontio made the jump in pitch darkness. Kontio’s style points were left to the vague imaginations of 31 000 viewers.

Janne Ahonen was a 21st century eagle, he won the 1998 Lahti Ski Games’ large hill for the first time. The large hill’s wind net was completed: 120 m long, 21 m high. It dampened the wind by about 10 seconds. In addition to the large hill, the net also protected the K90 and K64 hills from spring south winds.

Lahti by Night,
Lahti by Night.

Wexi Salmi’s lyrics to the Games song that always plays after the evening team hill.

In the last Lahti Ski Games of the century in 1999, the new WC 2001 competition organization (Lahti Ski Club, Finnish Ski Federation, city of Lahti) practiced organizing competitions. Several ideas and personnel were tried with the World Championships in mind. Samppa Lajunen brought joy to 71 000 Finnish viewers by winning the combined. The other four sports went to foreign athletes.

Great feeling and warm snacks

Lahti Ski Games are run by hundreds of volunteers in addition to competition professionals. Without workers, the games would not be organized. In the 2001 World Championships in Lahti, 163 584 hours of work were done by 2 100 people. A volunteer worked an average of 78 hours. The value of the work done was calculated at FIM 11.6 million – 2.6 million in euros.

There were 81 000 spectators in the preliminaries of the World Cup in 2000. During the three days, 11 World Cup competitions were held. Lahti Ski Club’s Janne Ahonen took the win on the normal hill and the second place on the large hill.

I emphasize the word doubt…

The president of the Finnish Ski Federation Paavo M. Petäjä 2001

The World Championships 2001 is remembered for the doping mess. Six Finnish skiers were caught, among them were e.g. skiing icon Kirvesniemi and Myllylä and Isometsä. Although the performances of the Finnish skiers were rejected, Finland achieved ten medals in the scandalous Games. Among other things, the double victory of Pirjo Muranen and Kati Sundqvist in the first WC sprint in history, as well as Samppa Lajusen’s silver medals in the Combined and Ski Jumping team hill silver medals. More than 300 000 spectators attended the games.

The Lahti Ski Games included sprint distances and a renewed pursuit, these forms of competition were presented for the first time at the World Championships. But what’s most important: The 2001 World Championships in Lahti were once again excellently organized in the Lahti style of World Championships.

Ei mitään ohjeita vaan käskyn saat!
Tulla ladun varteen huutamaan!
Mäkimontussa mölyä riittää.
Eihän äänesi käyttämättä jää!…

Lyrics from the “Vieraileva tähti” band (Jussi Hautamäki, Samppa Lajunen, Ville Kantee ja Antti Kuisma) in the WC 2001

In 2003, sunshine and warm weather favored 52 000 spectators. The tracks, both on the hills and off-road, were in excellent condition. FIS’s TD report gave the people of Lahti a commendable rating.

The side program of the Games 2004 remained in the annals. The Extreme Duudsons were suspected of committing an act that violates sexual decency: they shot each other with snow cannons. The Duudsons landed in the stadium on a couch, which they set on fire, and at the same time, to the horror of the skiers, they burned the bottom of the ski starting point.

In 2006, the FIS was about to refuse sprint, joint start and pursuit competitions, when the new competition rules define performance positions on the Cross-Country side even more demandingly. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, the stadium and the competition equipment were brought to FIS condition.

Great feeling, warm snacks and friends, the best!

Customer survey 2006

A combined hurricane departure was first seen in 2005; Competitors are given back distance based on ski jumping points.

In the 2006 survey, one in three respondents considered the competition atmosphere to be the main reason for visiting the competition. In addition to watching Ski Jumping, being with friends (13.6%) and the tradition of the Games (11.3%) were highly valued.

In the 2007 were “Suomalainen legenda” competitions, TV visibility on YLE’s channels was almost five million viewers.

The wind was a problem at the Finnish Ski Federation’s 100-year Games in 2008: for the first time in the more than 80-year history of the Games, not a single Ski Jumping competition could be completed. There were 53 000 viewers.

Fame comes back by pushing

Lahti Ski Games’ viewership in Europe is huge. According to the EBU report, the 2010 competition program was watched by more than 84 million viewers.

In 2012, for the first time, the competition program included FIS skiing for 6-12 year olds and a hill race for young people under 16 years old. In the following games, the number of spectators continued to decline: there were 40 500 spectators in the sunny winter weather.

We are like mascots that are easy to approach.

Tanja Arvila, leader of the competition girls in 2013

In 2014, the city of Lahti concentrated the organization of winter sports events in Lahti Events, a new subsidiary of Lahti Region Oy. Its tasks included Lahti Ski Games’ marketing and event production. At the same time, the company was preparing for the organization of the WC 2017.

Only approx. 20 000 tickets were sold for the 2016 WC preliminaries, which is the lowest number in the history of Lahti Ski Games. The Games organized in February turned out to be more expensive than expected and attracted fewer spectators than expected, when e.g. the team hill from the evening was cancelled.

The 2017 World Championships in Lahti were historic. Lahti is the first city in the history of Nordic skiing to host the seventh World Ski Championships.

The undisputed star of the Games was Iivo Niskanen, who won his first World Championship gold medal in the 15 km traditional distance. The Finnish women’s relay team, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Kerttu Niskanen, Laura Mononen and Krista Pärmäkoski, made the home crowd scream after skiing to bronze.

Of the competitive events, every medal and splash of the Finnish skiers was memorable – Niskanen and Iversen’s crash being the most vivid.

ESS reporter Aleksi Sammalisto 2017

Lahti Ski Club got an efficient group of volunteers for the World Championships, who were responsible for the technical organization of the Games. Duties also included control of order. There were 350 volunteers and more than 700 people in technical work. The work of the volunteers went brilliantly. 180 000 admission tickets were sold for the Games and the total number of visitors was 220 000.

After the World Championships, in 2018 Lahti Ski Games had 32 500 spectators; 8 World Cup competitions in the program.

The best feeling of all, what there is at the World Cups.

Skier Ristomatti Hakola 2018

In the corona year 2021, the strangest competitions in its history took place at the Lahti Ski Games – without an audience. More than 300 athletes from more than twenty countries participated in the World Cup. More than 55 million viewers watched the races on TV internationally, nearly a million viewers of YLE’s broadcasts at their best.

The audience found their way to the stands again in the winter of 2022 after a two-year break, in the style of the best years of the 2000s. The games were attended by 35 000 spectators, five thousand more than the previous open door games.

Super cool. The spirit and community spirit of Lahti Ski Games has been reflected in the people.

Secretary General of the Games Tomi-Pekka Kolu 2022

The people will gather in March 2023 for the Lahti Ski Games anniversary competition. It has been 100 years since skier champion Anton Collin – the conqueror of Holmenkollen – started a 10 km race with 17 other skiers at the new ski stadium, cheered by 3 000 spectators. Amazingly, that original racing atmosphere can still be felt.

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