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Sporting sensations, great arenas and atmosphere

INTERVIEW: EHF Secretary General Michael Wiederer talks about what impressed him most at the EHF EURO 2016

Photo: Stephane Pillaud spoke with EHF Secretary General Michael Wiederer to find his conclusions on the Men’s EHF EURO 2016, from an organisational and sporting angle, as he begins to look ahead to Croatia 2018. After two great weeks of handball in Poland, how do you rate the cooperation of the EHF with the Polish Organising Committee?

Michael Wiederer: The cooperation with the Polish organisers was very fruitful and on the highest level. Their and our high expectations were satisfied. As well as the Polish OC, the EURO department of the European Handball Federation did a great job. So the challenges are high for all upcoming EURO organisers. Are you satisfied with the number of spectators?

Michael Wiederer: The number of approximately 400,000 spectators exceeded all expectations from EHF and the Organising Committee. But it was not only the high number of fans, but the great atmosphere in the arenas, which will last.

Since Austria 2010 it is clearly recognisable that all measures to create a good atmosphere have been working in all hosting countries. This time in Poland it was not only the atmosphere in Krakow, but all over the country, in those matches without the Polish team. Do you agree that from a sporting view it was a tournament of surprises?

Michael Wiederer: To be honest I did not expect those semi-finalists, maybe except Spain, as they belonged to the medal contenders before. For the development and the promotion of handball it is great that new nations or nations which had been out of the spotlight for several years are on the stage or back in the focus.

The EURO has proved the depth of top European handball, not only by looking upon the semi-finalists, but even at those who missed the main round like Iceland or Slovenia, or even missed the EURO. Therefore, the extension to 24 teams at the EURO 2020 is the right step for European handball. In general, a huge number of nations have rejuvenated their squads, we have seen a lot of young faces at the EURO. What can future organisers and the EHF learn from the 2016 EURO in Poland?

Michael Wiederer: We obviously saw that it makes sense to invest in the arenas. It is an investment in comfort, in satisfaction and atmosphere, which pays off for all groups, but mainly the spectators. The better the arena, the better the atmosphere.

Another really impressive conclusion of this EURO is the huge increase in TV interest all over Europe. Only national teams can cause such numbers and it was really extraordinary. Croatia is the next Men’s EURO organiser in 2018. What do you expect from them?

Michael Wiederer: The 13th Men’s EURO will be the first in history hosted by a nation which already organised a Men’s EURO. But times and things have changed completely since Croatia hosted the EURO 18 years ago. The next organiser knows what homework they need to do, mainly in terms of the venues, so their work starts now.

written by Bjorn Pazen / cg