Olle Dahlin

Earlier this month, the biathlon family gathered together in-person for the 15th Ordinary International Biathlon Union (IBU) Congress.

It was a symbolic Congress as it marked the end of the 2018-2022 Olympic cycle. 

It brought to a conclusion the terms of a number of IBU Executive Board members who have contributed so much to the advancement of our sport in recent years. 

And it was a moment to reflect on the journey the biathlon family has been on together.

But in many ways, it was a Congress which reinforced that our sport’s remarkable journey has really only just begun. 

It reflected our hope for a new beginning as we were able to gather in-person again after COVID-19 had forced us physically apart. And it demonstrated just how much more there is for us to achieve as we move into a new Olympic cycle.

When I was given the honour of serving the IBU as President in 2018, I promised my colleagues and friends a new era for biathlon.

Our sport was in crisis. Urgent reforms were needed - to address wrongdoing of the past and protect biathlon and our fantastic athletes in the future.

Our reforms have been well documented in recent years. We have gone from a sport in crisis to a sport at the forefront of good governance. 

We commissioned an independent External Review Commission to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the past.

The International Biathlon Union has 15 projects and 46 goals for 2022, with half of this year's goals already completed ©Getty Images
The International Biathlon Union has 15 projects and 46 goals for 2022, with half of this year's goals already completed ©Getty Images

Meanwhile we introduced an overhauled, state-of-the-art Constitution, which included the establishment of the Biathlon Integrity Unit (BIU), greater athlete representation and anti-doping oversight.

We undertook comprehensive consultation with the biathlon family to develop Target 26 - our sport’s first strategic plan and blueprint for the future.

Target 26 comprises five distinct strategic targets, which are at the foundation of our "IBU House" and involve projects that contribute to us achieving our overall 2030 objectives and ultimately realising our vision of a sustainable and innovative sport with integrity.

Over the last three years we have worked with our National Federations (NFs), Organising Committees and partners to deliver on 15 projects and 46 goals for 2022. 

Key successes include the inauguration of the IBU Academy, which provides a centralised point for practical support for federations, athletes and coaches and has already delivered a number of educational programmes, the launch of the official award-winning IBU mobile application and revamped website, which has significantly increased our engagement with fans and provided them with tailored content, and the adoption of sustainability and gender equality strategies which have been internationally recognised and ensure that these two important subjects are fully integrated into our daily operations.

Based on all the biathlon family has achieved, I was able to stand before my colleagues at the Congress, and say with pride that together, we have entered the new era I promised four years ago. But it was also with excitement that I could say that our journey has a long way to go.

Target 26 is at its halfway point. Half of the 2022 goals are completed, and the remaining half are well on their way.

I am honoured to have been unanimously re-elected as IBU President alongside the Executive Board to oversee this continued implementation.

With the support of our IBU headquarters staff led by our new secretary general Max Cobb, I am excited by what we can achieve.

Now is the time to build on our excellent progress to date, as we reenergise for the future. Like any long-term strategy, Target 26 continues to evolve as we ensure that we are making our sport future-proof and taking advantage of any emerging possibilities.

The International Biathlon Union relocated to new headquarters in Anif, Austria, in 2020 ©IBU
The International Biathlon Union relocated to new headquarters in Anif, Austria, in 2020 ©IBU

That said, we have clear goals across our five targets:

Empowering our federations. Without strong NFs we will never have a strong sport. But to have a sustainable future we need to ensure that our federations have the tools to develop on their own.

The Biathlon Academy will continue to grow and offer more programmes and initiatives for NFs. We will look to establish a more effective system of financial support for our federations and enhance youth participation and accessible pathways for young athletes.

Enhancing our events. Work has already begun on increasing the consistency and standards of IBU events, but our focus now is on developing the system for awarding events and establishing a framework for working better alongside Organising Committees. 

We are also prioritising the athlete and fan experience.  The IBU Athletes’ Committee will continue to be actively engaged to ensure the athlete voice is fully integrated and new initiatives are implemented to improve our events for athletes and fans alike.

Expanding our reach. Like all sports, biathlon continuously needs to find ways to make sure that the sport is developing internationally. We will continue to refine our digital ecosystem based on market research and implement our digital and social media strategy. 

We will implement the strategy for increased televised biathlon coverage to maximise visibility and improve sponsorship agreements targeted at regions important to biathlon’s future.

Upgrading our governance. Our progress in governance has been internationally recognised. But we have always been clear that we wanted to be a leader - to be a model for best practice. We will continue to review our Constitution and anti-doping systems on an ongoing basis and implement a core standard of gender equality across all IBU levels. 

We will expand the involvement of biathlon in international and national sporting affairs with a focus on identifying hosting opportunities of cross-sport events. And we will increase the engagement of all stakeholders in IBU decision-making with regular feedback sessions with all stakeholders.

Innovating our future. To flourish and achieve our potential we need to continue to innovate. We are looking into opportunities around street biathlon/summer biathlon as well as laser rifles to connect with younger audiences and also open possibilities for non-winter nations. 

We are also evaluating how to build institutional capacities to further embrace digital technologies for the promotion of biathlon. And we are developing innovative initiatives to minimise our carbon footprint, in accordance with our IBU Sustainability Strategy.

None of this can be implemented without the involvement of the NFs and we will be staging a series of regionally based workshops in the coming months so that we can gather their feedback.  We will integrate the output from these regional meetings, into a re-focused Target 26 plan for 2022-2026.

This plan will be approved next year on the occasion of IBU’s 30th anniversary. A special moment for biathlon where we celebrate how far we have come, but more importantly plan for the exciting journey we have ahead to realise our sports enormous potential.