Mike Rowbottom

In just over three weeks time, the best archers on the globe will converge on Copenhagen for the 48th edition of the World Archery Championships, which offer the first opportunity for direct qualification to next year’s Rio Olympics.

The opening rounds will take part at the scenic Sundby Idraetspark, with the medal matches on August 1 and 2 being sited outside the imposing Danish Parliament building, Christiansborg Palace.

Danish TV will be all over it, broadcasting the whole event, including qualifying rounds, live. Indeed, as part of the preparation for the impending Championships, Denmark broadcasters covered the archery event which took place in Baku last week during the inaugural European Games.

It was a decision driven partly by the impending home competition, but when push comes to shove, nations need credible contenders to generate interest in the sporting events they host, and in Maja Jager, who will defend her women’s world title in her home country, Denmark has the perfect means of generating interest and inspiration.

Denmark's 23-year-old Maja Jager, pictured en route to silver at the Baku 2015 European Games, has stirred home interest as she prepares to defend her title in Copenhagen later this month
Denmark's 23-year-old Maja Jager, pictured en route to silver at the Baku 2015 European Games, has stirred home interest as she prepares to defend her title in Copenhagen later this month ©Getty Images

Calm and assured, this 23-year-old took silver in Baku, denied a second major title at the last by an inspired sequence of five perfect 10s out of her last six shots by Germany’s Karina Winter.

Jager’s world title win was timed perfectly to help build interest in the upcoming World Championships on her home soil, and that interest will surge on towards Rio 2016, much to the satisfaction of World Archery, whose secretary general Tom Dielen I met at the European Games archery venue on the day of the women’s individual event.   

That venue - the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, named after the Azerbaijani linesman who confirmed to the 1966 World Cup final referee Gottfried Dienst that Geoff Hurst’s shot had crossed the line to give England a 3-2 extra-time lead over West Germany - made for strange viewing on a brutally hot day.

The appreciative whoops and cries of a small and knowledgeable knot of spectators echoed around the vast, empty bowl of the arena.

Dielen – who joined World Archery as executive director in 1996 and then became European Regional Director for the World Anti-Doping Agency before returning to World Archery in 2005 with the task of managing a sport that is gaining in worldwide popularity - admitted that, for just such a reason, he was not a great fan of siting archery within stadia.

“But as Baku is such a windy city, putting it in the open air might not have been the best option,” he added.

Why would the Azerbaijani public, who regularly turned the arenas housing their favoured combat sports into cockpits of fervour, want to come and sit in this vast, baking bowl of a stadium to watch a sport which had no history in their country and follow home competitors whose lack of experience meant they had no chance of getting anywhere?

“Azerbaijan unfortunately doesn’t have a long tradition in our sport,” said Dielen. “You need more time to create athletes to a level that they can bring the crowds in.

“You need the host country to be performing.  I would say we have a similar situation with Brazil. But I would say that as soon as Brazil was given the Games we worked on a programme with them and it’s starting to give results.”

Another spectacular result occurred in the same week of the archery at the European Games, as the World Archery Youth Championships in Yankton, South Dakota, threw up an ideal winner just a year out from Rio 2016 - 17-year-old Marcus Vinicius D’Almeida, who announced his emergence as a prodigious world force last year in winning silver at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing and the World Cup Final in Lausanne.

Brazil's hopes of an archery medal at the Rio 2016 Games will be targeted 17-year-old Marcus D'Almeida, newly crowned world youth champion and silver medallist at last year's World Cup in Poland, whose talents have earned him the nickname 'Neymar of Archery'
Brazil's hopes of an archery medal at Rio 2016 will rest on 17-year-old Marcus Vinicius D'Almeida, newly crowned world youth champion, whose talents have earned him the nickname "Neymar of Archery" ©Getty Images

In the wake of his YOG success, the young D’Almeida admitted that he had been thinking about Rio 2016 since he had joined the national team two years earlier, and that the archery venue of the Sambodromo, stage for the city’s annual Carnival parade, was proving inspirational.

“I’ve already thought about how the venue will be and imagined competing in the final here, celebrating a gold medal with a big party going on in the stands,” said the young man now dubbed, for good or ill, "the Neymar of archery.

“Just thinking about the possibility of this gives me goosebumps.”

As Dielen points out, D’Almeida is not the only one. Brazil also got a bronze in the men’s team event.

“These results are based on the programme we worked on with the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Federation,” he said. “But it takes seven years. It’s not something you can just do in one or two months.

“In Azerbaijan we see that the results have gone up, but not to a level that it’s reported in the press. I was yesterday at the gymnastics. The Azeri he was one of the favourites it was clear. To get to that level for archery it would have needed at least two more years.”

But the conjunction of iconic venue and serious contender will ensure that the Brazilian experience or the Olympic archery tournament, albeit the lack of history the event has within the country, will be a vivid and memorable one.

Rio's Sambodromo stadium, which annually hosts the Carnival parade, pictured during last year's national archery championships. It will be thronged next year with spectators following the progress of D'Almeida.
Rio's Sambodromo stadium, which annually hosts the Carnival parade, pictured during last year's National Championships, will archery during Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

And for now, Dielen is reflecting with satisfaction on the fact that the sport doesn’t need to wait until Rio 2016 to get a look-in in media terms. The Copenhagen World Championships start on July 26…

“It’s one of the things that is happening more and more,” he said. “There is not just the Olympics every four years, there is something in between.

“I remember when I started in 1996 in World Archery, the typical answer from the TV was: ‘Oh, it’s fantastic! Why don’t we see more in the four years in between?’ And I said, ‘Well, we do produce but you don’t show!’

“Since then things have evolved. TV coverage is starting to happen now in more and more countries. In Korea we have every major event live on television. Mexico is also following the World Championships live and there is a trend there to continue for the coming years.

“So we are I would say on the way. It depends a lot on the success of the athletes.”

So step forward, Neymar of Archery…no pressure or anything….