Back to the future


PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE. Yet another successful biathlon season has come to an end –as the saying goes, it is now history. The word “history” itself tends to be associated with the old-fashioned. Some people believe that we should leave the past behind, that the future – or, as in our case: next season – is more important. But within the IBU there has been a growing desire not to let our sport’s present and past history just gather dust in some old drawer. Biathlon has developed enormously over the past years, and the current sport needs to be depicted, documented and made available to an interested public using state-of-the-art technology.

For that reason, the IBU has decided to not only use the usual offline and on- line media to share the extraordinary victories with biathlon fans around the world while the season is underway, but also to document the develop- ments, the key players, the technology, the memorable moments and everyday stories in a unique, comprehensive online project: the IBU VIRTUAL GALLERY.

A physical museum in the conven- tional sense would only allow a rela- tively small number of biathlon fans and visitors to see and experience the materials, and it would also be very static. It is not appropriate for an inter- national federation and for a sport that is practised worldwide to restrict the number of visitors by having its museum in a fixed geographical location. For a progressive sport well-versed in the use of social media like biathlon, creat- ing a digital museum is a better, more innovative solution that can continue to grow and develop over the years as digital media technology and the num- ber of display items, pictures, videos, collections and knowhow continues to progress and grow. With this digital tool the IBU not only wishes to create a platform to preserve biathlon history for posterity, but also to help biathlon fans and aficionados around the world to network with each other and main- tain contact with the IBU itself. The aim is to enable fans, fan clubs, our na- tional federations and the IBU to stay in touch, and this will positively benefit our sport. The IBU Virtual Gallery will become part of daily biathlon coverage, alongside our website and our digital and social media platforms.


The IBU Virtual Gallery is a virtual reality consisting of five online ‘worlds’, each of which will interactively present the individual facets of biathlon and optimally depict content and answer questions about the sport. The IBU will be employing state-ofthe-art technology: a vast array of different media such as film footage, 3D avatars and 3D simulations, plus various methods such as gamification, links to social media content and virtual reality make this online service a unique platform for sharing insights into the technologically savvy sport of biathlon. Another major advantage of a digital gallery is that it is available from anywhere in the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


At the start of their voyage of discovery through the ‘worlds of biathlon’, visitors will be transported to a winter landscape on the edge of a forest. From here, they can visit the following locations by either clicking on them individually or by taking the speciallydesigned tour:


The Main Building starts in the present day and depicts the historical development of modern biathlon since the first World Championships in 1958. Topics such as biathlon equipment, training, competitions (Olympic games, World Championships, World Cups, summer biathlon etc.), anti-doping and the history of the IBU are on display here. Using 3D scanning techniques, visitors will be able to rotate the different items to view them at any angle. Using social media links they can share any gallery content they like on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and

And that is not all – in addition to posting content and items on social media, users can also look up anything that interests them in the specially-created archive and library to their heart’s content. The Main Building will also house a special room dedicated to presenting the fan clubs from around the world.

  • Space Draft design of rooms inside the main building
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In the House of Origins we can gaze back into the even more distant past. In the area around a rustic log cabin, visitors can explore the (pre)historic beginnings of the world’s oldest sport. Users can follow a stone-age man as he goes hunting on skis, discover the first written records of a biathlon competition in the Middle Ages and witness the historic conversation between the founder and first head of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) Sven Thofelt and the IOC President at the time, Avery Brundage, during an aeroplane flight, when Thofelt – the sport’s first major advocate – managed to convince Brundage to make biathlon an Olympic discipline.


The third digital ‘world’ is where the IBU will honour celebrities from the world of biathlon. This is where we want to showcase the top athletes, their stories and their personal victories. The Hall of Fame will allow visitors to venture off an a very special journey of discovery with those celebrities: a digital avatar of the celebrities will take users back to their childhood and explain the key milestones of their careers. So if you have ever wanted to have a real chat with your personal biathlon hero, the Hall of Fame is the perfect place for you.

  • Space Draft design of rooms inside the main building
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After the three digital buildings, which are predominantly intended for imparting knowledge and information like a museum, the Venue Viewer is a hands-on look at the global sport of biathlon in its true place: the outdoors. Simply showing such a nature-loving sport in indoor scenarios would not be appropriate for biathlon, which is an outdoor sport. Users need to be given the opportunity to inspect the historical and current venues and biathlon sites themselves and the Venue Viewer will allow users to visit and view competition venues around the world from the comfort of their own homes, such as by going on a stadium tour and taking a look behind the scenes. With the help of our national federations, we can provide the public with a wealth of insider information about biathlon venues.


As technology progresses, the fifth digital world will offer more and more digital fun and hands-on biathlon activities.

Users who have always wanted to become an active athlete can try their hand at being a professional biathlete. They can test their talent using different courses, which are based on 3D models of original venues. Then, after a few rounds of training, they can compete against other users or even their real biathlon idols. This will give users a unique, hands-on look at the rules, techniques, idiosyncrasies and challenges of the sport of biathlon. In this ‘world’ we have also chosen to focus on the interaction and public relations between biathlon and its international federation, the IBU.


Last November the IBU successfully hired a history major and trained museum education officer as a project manager. She set to work viewing and categorising the existing material and preparing it for digitalisation.

In addition to developing a comprehensive concept, the project manager took the first steps towards cataloguing the history of biathlon. The project has also involved the work of the IBU Communications Director and of the former Secretary General of the IBU, Peter Bayer, who is considered a ‘wandering encyclopaedia’ of biathlon, in a consultant role.

It was clear from the very beginning that the project would trigger, and provide, massive synergistic benefits in a whole range of areas. While the project is being completed, various comprehensive archives are being built up. For instance, thousands of analogue and digital images are being entered into a special-purpose image database. Over the following months this data is to be catalogued and made available for posterity in an IBU image archive. This work has already uncovered a number of historical gems which we will be showing to the public on our social media profiles in a future Throwback Thursday campaign.

In addition to the images, work has commenced on cataloguing and digitalizing the existing books, articles and files in a library/archive database. These efforts will culminate in a special online IBU library and an IBU archive, which should be made available for individual research projects. But while the IBU has a large number of files and pictures at its disposal, it does not have as many physical objects ‘to choose from’, which is why one of the main tasks over the next months will be to get in touch with biathlon celebrities, national federations, companies and fans around the world to collect items, written records, further images and – more importantly – the stories behind. At the same time, an IT company has been working on the digital side of things, taking care of the 3D scanning, the digital design and ‘interior decoration’ of the project.

  • Space Original formal IBU foundation document
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To make the IBU Virtual Gallery as diverse and dynamic as possible, the IBU hopes that many people interested in biathlon from around the world will get in touch with us to tell us their stories, or lend us their biathlon-related items short-term for 3D scanning, following the motto of the IBU Virtual Gallery, “Make it yours”. we are specifically looking for image and video material (especially from 1990 or earlier), any kinds of objects such as old skiing clothing, shooting ranges, training equipment, rifles, invitations, event programmes, pins and literature about biathlon. In keeping with this motto, we are also very interested in hearing what you would personally like to see in the Virtual Gallery: after all, we want to know what you have always wanted to know about biathlon but never dared to ask. You will find more information in regular updates on our website and in our newsletter. You can also contact our project manager directly by email to: or by phone at +43-662 85 50 50 17.

TEXT: Peer Lange, Marie-Luise Kreilinger