Cold weather and female entrance 1954
1954 was the year that put Falun on the map as a winter sports resort and strong organiser, not only in Sweden, but around the world. The World Championships took place between the 13th and the 21st of February and were characterised by cold weather and few Swedish successes.
For the first time in the history of skiing, Falun hosted a World Ski Championships, but it was the second time that the championships were held in Sweden, since Sollefteå hosted the competitions in 1934. This was also the championship when women participated for the first time.
The World Championship days in Falun offered a big party in the city and Prince Bertil visited and thus made sure that the competitions got a royal splendour.
Just in time for the start of the championships on Sunday the 14th of February, the cold had taken a firm hold of Falun. Cold was just the first name.
The organisers claimed that it was -20 degrees Celsius, but the thermometers around Falun read -25 or even -30 degrees.
The premier day included both the 30 km race at Lugnet and the ski jumping in Källviken. A number of extra trains transported ski enthusiasts to Falun.
Despite the extreme cold, the crowd made it outside to the arena and the competitions on the day of the premiere. No less than 50 000 spectators were on site in Källviken to watch the competition on the big jump, which was won by the Finn Matti Pietkäinen, but where Bror Östman from Sweden took home an acclaimed bronze medal. The audience figure was a new record for winter sports in Sweden, and would hold until 1993, when a slightly bigger crowd watched Torgny Mogren race for his World Championship gold in the 50 km race.
On the first day of the championships, about 25 000 spectators visited Lugnet to see the 30 km race being won by the Soviet Vladimir Kuzin. 1954 was the year that the Soviet Union debuted in a World Ski Championships.
The spectator crowds on the day of the premiere brought a lot of income and already after the first day, the World Championships showed net profits!
A funny event that occurred in the days leading up to the premiere, transpired when the official training for the 30 km race was to begin. That is when a gate with a sturdy padlock was discovered, right across the track in Hälla.
The landowner had turned sour after an incident during a previous military patrol competition and wanted to set an example. “No competitions on my land”. But with the help of diplomacy, the gate could eventually be opened for training as well as competition.
For the Swedish part, the World Championships on home turf did not turn out to be a major success. In addition to Bror Östman´s bronze medal in the ski jumping competition, both the men´s relay and the ladies´relay resulted in bronze medals with the help of Sune Larsson, Sixten Jernberg, Artur Olsson and Per-Erik Larsson, as well as Anna-Lisa Eriksson, Märta Norberg and Sonja Edström.
But the Swedish skiers were in the middle of a generational exchange. Mora-Nisse had ended an outstanding career the previous year.
The greatest Swedish hope was placed on the young Sixten Jernberg, who had not been able to deliver results equal to those of Mora-Nisse. Not yet. The breakthrough came two years later during the Olympic games in Cortina. The Lima skier came in fourth place in the initial 30 km race, which became Sweden’s best individual performance.
Order was maintained by 201 policemen during the World Championships.
Professedly, 633 media representatives reported from the competitions. 72 Swedish and 61 foreign newspapers were represented, 54 photographers accredited, and even a handful of television representatives were present. The city hotel served as press hotel.
In total, the 1954 World Championships were watched by 115 000 fans.
Sigge Bergman, then chairman of the Swedish Ski Association, was chairman of the organising committee.