By Daniel Etchells

Philipp Groborsch (right), chief executive of the 2015 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival, joins in the 100-day celebrations ©EYOF 2015The 2015 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg and Liechtenstein will begin in exactly 100 days, as the organisers enter the final stage of preparations.

The Festival, due to take place from January 25 to 30, will see the best young athletes from across the continent compete in the disciplines of biathlon, Alpine skiing, snowboard, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, ice hockey and figure skating.

During the past week, more than 100 representatives from the participating nations and from the European Olympic Committees' Coordination Commission visited the nine competition venues and participated in the Organising Committee's workshops focusing on the state of the preparations.

"The feedback was very positive," said Leo Kranz, President of the Liechtenstein Olympic Committee.

"We, the Organising Committee, are a tightly-knit unit working in close cooperation."

In the coming weeks, all the necessary infrastructure will be completed at the venues, such as the shooting range in Bürserberg, which will host the biathlon, and the tribunes in the Aktivpark Montafon and the Montafon Nordic, venues for ice hockey and ski jumping respectively, while contracts with local ski clubs and the venues will be signed.

"At this stage we want to thank the local clubs for their commitment," said Philipp Groborsch, chief executive of the 2015 Winter EYOF.

"Without them, we could not realise this large event."

During the second weekend of December, 1,200 volunteers are due travel to Vorarlberg to be trained in 26 different functional areas from marketing to transport.

"We had many applications for the volunteer jobs," added Groborsch.

"We were able to select them according to our needs."

Overall, 1464 students from Vorarlberg and Liechtenstein are involved in the organisation process.

Members of the Dornbirner Bulldogs ice hockey team showed their support for the Festival in the Messestadion Dornbirn, the venue for figure skating ©EYOF 2015Members of the Dornbirner Bulldogs ice hockey team showed their support for the Festival in the Messestadion Dornbirn, the venue for figure skating ©EYOF 2015

The design of the EYOF mascot, Alpy the marmot, the winners' podium and the Olympic Torch, together with the Torch Relay, were designed and planned by students from Vorarlberg.

Schools in both countries are engaged in the fields of catering and IT-support, as part of the "school sport and fan challenge" and "adopt-a-nation" initiatives.

"We managed to reach our ambitious goal to involve closely the local youth in the event", said Bernadette Mennel, Vorarlberg's Minister for Sport.

Austria, who will have the largest delegation of the 45 participating nations, are expected to send 65 athletes to the Festival to participate in all competitions except figure skating, while Liechtenstein have already named their four athletes; Larissa Sele and Anna Frommelt in cross-country skiing and Silvan Marxer and Jessica Hilzinger in Alpine skiing.

Hotel Löwen, in the Austrian town of Schruns, is the latest addition to the Festival's list of sponsors which includes Montafon Tourismus, Silvretta Montafon and Malbuner.

"They all support youth sports, and I think this is a very precious investment," said Groborsch.

"Our declared goal is to break even or even have a slightly positive balance."

Austrian Anita Wachter, an Olympic gold medallist in alpine skiing, who is an ambassador of the Festival, added: "Especially for our young athletes it will be a great experience to live such an international event, quasi the first step of the Olympics.

"In my career such a Festival did not exist.

"It is a great opportunity to make international experiences at an early age."

According to the latest figures, the first EYOF to be hosted by two countries will welcome 570 boys and 354 girls from 45 nations and a total of 1625 guests, including all officials, coaches and supervisors.

Out of the 49 European National Olympic Committees, only Albania, Azerbaijan, Portugal and Malta have not nominated any athletes.

The deadline for finalising the team entries is 8 January, 2015.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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