Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Brilliant Norwegians once again wiped the floor with the competition, winning both ladies’ and men’s overall World Cup titles – and taking most of the places in Top Ten
And taking overall Nations Cup, naturally.
Optimists would say that this time around things were not as one way as in, say, 2015–16 FIS Cross-Country World Cup when Norway took 24234 points – almost as much as the rest of the world combined. This year it was “only” 12657 to Russia’s 8636 and Sweden’s 7015. A progress of a kind.
In fact, it became yet another season pushing cross country skiing off the main plate towards also-run niche. Already the uphill skiing sport is not in prime time on any main television channel in Europe and even livestreams that cost relatively little to produce ( we are talking rough-feed type, as-they-come from the source) are often not happening. Indeed, why bother if audience is in hundreds of viewers and advertising perspectives are almost impossible to assess? Who in mainland Europe cares for yet another podium full of Norwegians with occasional Russian or Swede?
We posit: to survive & thrive FIS needs to find a way of breaking the Norwegian dominance thus increasing/broadening interest in competitions.
Could be achieved through:
1. To have Norway split into several parts for the purposes of xcski international competitions. How about Oslo vs Trøndelag? The danger with that “surgical solution” is that, freed of national quotas, the Norwegians would even further increase their podium dominance ( but they only got one super-fancy wax truck, so may be not)
2. To let things to run its course. There is marked progress in the German team, the incredible Slovenians have managed to take the silver at the World Championship…erm, that’s about it, really. This seems to be preferred tactics of FIS at the moment but we are openly skeptical. Without top heroes of Klaebo or Bolshunov magnitude – young & epitome of achiever in every sense – it ain’t gonna work.
3. To radically revamp the the international competitions program. We want to address that in separate story or stories over next weeks, but just a hint: mixed gender races and super-sprints would seem to be quick and cost-effective solutions.
As is, Norway will celebrate, Russia and Sweden will redouble their efforts in the next season ( that really starts in May already) and the rest would struggle for survival being pushed by more popular, flashier sports back home