Interview with Pavel Zbožínek, President of Emil Open


"I would very much like to see us succeed in establishing a tradition in the winter games as well as in the summer games and become the birthplace of other successful athletes," says Pavel Zbožínek, the president of the winter games.

Paul, Emil finally managed to "make it cold". How many times did you try to organize the winter version of Emil Open and how do you feel about it?

Fourth attempt and it feels amazing! I am very happy that we finally managed to organize the games, because honestly, I don't know if I could come to České Budějovice again next year and announce for the fifth time that we want to organize the winter games this year.

And why were so many attempts needed?

We have to go back to 2018/2019, when we were preparing the first edition. We were really far along in our preparations then. We had arranged the opening ceremony on Přemysl Otakar II Square, including the ice rink, accommodation, an approved allocation of one million crowns from the South Bohemia Region, etc. Unfortunately, the change of the Minister of Education meant that for the first time we heard the phrase about unregistered competitions for unregistered athletes and for this reason we were denied national support. This was followed by the Czech-Austrian project and, due to the pandemic, the failed 2021 and 2022 attempts. And only now, under the Visegrad Funds programme, we have finally been successful. Although this was also an adrenaline rush. Because in the first round our project was not approved. We were only successful in the second round, with half the budget, and we didn't find out the result until 16 December 2022, with the Games taking place on 25 January 2023. And then there was the fact that there was no snow on Lipno a week before the Games. Just as I said - adrenaline.

That sounds very adrenaline. How did you manage it?

It wasn't easy at all. Especially when you consider that we spent the whole Advent working on our charity stand with punch to raise as much money as possible for our athletes, and then enjoyed the Christmas holidays for a while. But Emil has a great team and great partners. Kamila Zouharova, who took her first opportunity under the banner of our new Emil's Producer to realize her big event and Vojta Kocourek, who took the position of project manager perfectly! But it would not have been possible without our general partner Energie AG Bohemia and without the great support and patience of the Lipno Ski Resort and Clarion Congress Hotel České Budějovice. Many thanks to all of them and many others.

But let's go back to the beginning. Why the South Bohemia Region?

There were several reasons why we chose the South Bohemia region. Firstly, we felt at that time a huge support from the municipality, mainly thanks to the MP Jan Bartošek, whom we consider to be a kind of spiritual father of our Winter Games in South Bohemia. It is true that the situation has changed since then and we have seen several political representations change, but we still have the support of the MP and we are still trying to be persistent in gaining more support. It is also the support of the University of South Bohemia and the University of Technology and Economics that we need for our activities. Their professional background and the potential of their students are very important to us. And last but not least, the great support of the already mentioned Lipno Ski Resort and the Clarion Hotel from the beginning.

But let's go back to the just successfully completed first year of the Games. How was it, besides being amazing?

We all enjoyed it very much and the satisfaction of the participants once again confirmed us that what we do is very meaningful. Sixty participants from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland took part in the pilot project of the V4 Winter Games Emil Open. We held competitions in para alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, in which we gave out a total of forty-four medals. Originally, snowboarding was also planned, but no athletes signed up for that, so it was only a demonstration event.

Which athletes are actually participating in the Emil Open?

We organise winter and summer games for young athletes with all kinds of disabilities aged 10 to 26. The concept of the Emil Open is based on this. At the winter games, for example, Centrum Kaňka from Tábor met the junior team of the Slovak Paralympic Committee. Some of them participated in their very first competitions in Lipno. Among the athletes, for example, was Viktória Balážová, who is one of only two completely blind downhill skiers in the world. To this I must add performance athletes. After all, bringing role models to the Games is one of the goals of the Emil Open. They were represented at the Games by the golden Paralympian in swimming and our long-time ambassador of the Emil Open, Arnošt Petráček.

Looking to the future, when will you start preparing the second edition and what will be?

Whether there will be a second edition at all and whether it will be in the South Bohemia Region depends on finances and also on the support of the local municipality, without whose support it is very difficult. Negotiations on support with both the South Bohemian Region and the Statutory City of České Budějovice are waiting for us. We are very happy about our informal meeting with the mayor of the city Dagmar Škodová Parmová, who attended the official opening of the Games and organized a glass of wine where we thanked our partners.

We also want to submit an application again in the Visegrad Funds programme and we will continue negotiations with our current general partner Energie AG Bohemia immediately after the final report. And the plans? We have big plans, of course. We would like to expand the existing ski sports with other winter sports such as para hockey, figure skating and wheelchair curling.

Pavel, what would you like to say in conclusion?

I would like to send a message to all children and young people with disabilities. Don't be afraid and come and try sports with us! And maybe right at our 12th Summer Games in Brno from 21 to 25 June 2023.

And finally, a wish. I really wish that, as with the Summer Games, we could establish a tradition and be at the birth of other successful athletes. Therefore, I would like to ask you all to support our efforts.

Logo Emil Open winter

Emilova sportovní, z.s.

Malinovského náměstí 603/4
602 00, Brno
Czech Republic

Pavel Zbožínek

Prezident organizačného výboru

Mgr. Vojtěch Kocůrek

Viceprezident organizačného výboru

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