March 3 - With just 24 days left to go, the Annecy 2013 International Military Sports Council (CISM) World Winter Games has received a huge amount of international interest with Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, the United States and Russia among the 40 nations already confirmed to participate.
The Games will also be welcoming competitors from China, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland as well as Eastern European nations Bosnia and Serbia, in what is shaping up to be an impressive line up of the world's best athletes.
South America's Ecuador will also be in attendance with support from the CISM's solidarity fund, a key component set up by the international organisation with effect to promote friendship and solidarity by military sport worldwide.
Hosts France will be heading the competition with a 70-strong team, including Tessa Worley, winner of the giant slalom at the World Championships in Schladming last month, and five-time world champion biathlete Martin Fourcade, an Olympic silver medallist at Vancouver 2010.
"The brilliant gold medal performances by Tessa Worley at Schladming and Martin Foucade at Nove Mesto auger very well for France's military ski team," said Vincent Vittoz, vice-president of Annecy 2013, who won the 15 km + 15 km double pursuit at the 2005 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf.
"Although the athletes are sure to enjoy the more laid-back atmosphere of this last big meet of the winter season, the competition promises to be fierce and the level very high, given the nations in attendance."
The four-day competition in the Haute-Savoie region, is due to begin with an Opening Ceremony on the Esplanade du Paquier on the stunning shore of Lake Annecy on March 25, where spectators will be treated to a parade of 1,000 participants sporting the colours of all 40 nations before leading members of the French ski team light the 2nd World Winter Games flame.
Annecy was awarded the 2nd World Winter Games over future Winter Olympic hosts Sochi in 2011 and have continued to successfully promote the organisation's motto "friendship through sport".
"France is extremely proud to host these Games, the largest military sports competition ever held in our country," said General Jean-René Bachelet, President of Annecy 2013.
"We have been working hard for months now, with the active support of our Government, local municipalities, and private partners, to make this event a popular success as well as an authentic celebration of sporting excellence and friendship between nations.
"Holding it in the Haute-Savoie, a setting that epitomises both winter sports and the close affinity that the armed forces has for this area, is particularly meaningful.
"Members of the military have helped write skiing and mountaineering history for decades now."
The CISM World Winter Games, which are due to finish on March 29, will feature six major sporting disciplines of short track speed skating, indoor sport climbing, ski orienting, alpine skiing, nordic skiing and ski mountaineering.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
February 2013: Annecy 2013's ski mountaineers to take on Chamonix Mont-Blanc slopes
February 2013: Annecy World Military Winter Games President predicts hugely successful event
September 2012: Annecy preparing to welcome nearly 1,000 athletes for World Military Winter Games