The Women's EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia marks the 22nd edition of the EHF European Championships - Europe's flagship national team competition.
Michael Wiederer, EHF Secretary General, has been in integral part of the organisation of every event since the first event in 1994. Here he speaks here about his expectations for the 11th edition of the Women's EHF EURO.
ehf-euro.com: How have the preparations for the championship been?
Michael Wiederer: After the EHF EURO 2010 in Denmark and Norway, this is the second time that we have had two host nations for the Women's EHF EURO, and of course this presents a special challenge.
However, we're working with two nations that have a long and successful handball tradition as well as a huge enthusiasm for the sport.
The cooperation between the two organising committees, as well as with the EHF's EURO Events department, has functioned very well, helped in no small part by the relatively short distances between the neighbouring countries and the EHF with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
ehf-euro.com: What can fans expect in Hungary and Croatia?
Michael Wiederer: Spectators can expect a great atmosphere in the two nations, not least of all because the event is important for the first Olympic place for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, which in addition to the competition to become European champions, adds an extra incentive to all teams playing in the event.
Those watching at home will also be able to follow the championship through extensive television coverage and streaming on the EHF’s video platform, ehfTV.com.
We’re also working to bring fans at home much closer to the event and to the players, and will be offering extensive coverage across a range of online, mobile and social media channels as we reach out to more and more fans.
Will we see a home advantage for Hungary and Croatia at EHF EURO 2014?
The host nations have an advantage because they are playing in front of their home fans in the preliminary and main rounds.
At the same time we know that this means more pressure on the home
teams to perform and these two effects tend to neutralise themselves at the end of the day. Our task as the EHF is to ensure that the conditions for all those teams taking part are the same.
ehf-euro.com: As well as the final weekend of the Women's EHF EURO 2014, the Papp Laszlo Sportarena in Budapest will host the Women’s EHF FINAL4 for the next two years, is there a special affinity between Hungary and women’s handball?
Michael Wiederer: It is not by accident that both the Women’s EHF EURO and the Women’s EHF FINAL4 will take place in Hungary. The women’s national team has played at a consistently high level over the years and the success of Győri Audi ETO KC in winning the Women’s EHF Champions League for the past two years has pushed the profile of women’s handball to the top.
Of course Hungary is a large spectator market, with huge interest in women’s handball, but when we look at the organisers of the next three EHF EURO events - Sweden in 2016, France in 2018 and Denmark and Norway in 2020, we can see that the major nations in women’s handball apply to host the championship because it is a highly attractive event.
ehf-euro.com: After being actively involved in 22 European Championships, are the EHF EURO events still something special for you personally?
Of course! The European Championships are the real highpoint of our national team competitions and the women’s championships in particular have a very special spirit. The EHF EUROs rank amongst the top events in handball and always produce tense and exciting matches on top of a superb atmosphere in the arenas. I’m really looking forward to the start of the Women’s EHF EURO in December.