Every two years the Austrian Tourism Board puts on the World Tourism Games. Think of it as the Olympics for the tourism industry. There is an opening ceremony, medals are awarded, the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played, and athletes compete in about a dozen competitions including downhill skiing, mountain biking, triathlon, tennis, golf, beach volleyball, archery, running, and more. The location of the games rotate every two years to different regions of Austria. The games are a way to highlight some of the best of what Austria has to offer. The hospitality was amazing, the event was organized flawlessly, the venues (ie the mountains and facilities) were world-class, the food was delicious, and everyone competed and had a wonderful time. And I think that these things are indicative of the type of vacation you will have if you come to Austria.
As for the competition, there were some amazing athletes including former Olympic athletes (and I mean the real Olympics). There were many highlights, but some of my personal favorites included the following:
- The 16 degree Celsius temperature of the lake swim in the triathlon: it literally took your breath away, and there were some funny sights when people were desperately struggling to get out of the water.
- The championship mountain golf course: the scenery was amazing and some of the golf shots were spectacular.
- An American winning the gold medal in the skiing competition: it was neat to see an American win the gold against all of the European skiers (he won for the under 35-year-old age group and gave a former Olympic downhill skier from Great Britain a run for the overall best time as well).
- The enthusiasm of the teams: I loved the way the total exuberance of the teams (particularly the larger European teams) helped elevate the spirit of the games. The dancing, the music, the celebrations, the outfits . . . it was truly amazing. And teams from almost 50 countries participated, so it was a fun mix of people.
- Tumbling over the handlebars of my mountain bike: I got a little too aggressive on a turn and tumbled in front of the fan area. But I was so exhausted that I was thankful for the brief pause. The talent of the mountain bikers was outstanding and I was clearly outclassed, but all of the participants, including myself, had our own personal goals (just finishing without having a heart attack was mine).