The man in the ear: Holger Meier comments the races for blind fans

The man in the ear: Holger Meier comments the races for blind fans

As winter sports event, the BMW IBU Biathlon World Championships 2023 in Oberhof connects not only fans from all over the world. Besides wheelchair users, an inclusive offer for blind and partially sighted people was created. Thanks to an audio description by Holger Meier, they can follow the competitions in the “ARENA am Rennsteig” live.

Cheering gestures at the shooting range and exciting races to catch up on the course, the rush when the rifle sticks while reloading or the exhausted but overjoyed faces of the biathletes when they cross the finish line as the first ones: such captivating scenes cannot be seen by blind and partially sighted people. Thanks to Holger Meier, they can nevertheless still experience the BMW IBU Biathlon World Championships 2023 in Oberhof up close. He is commentator for blind people since 2011 and provides his guests an all-encompassing impression of the races and atmosphere around them.

Orginially, Holger Meier wanted to become sports journalist, but then came to audio description via various stations in the radio sector and commented mainly football games. When the passionate biathlon fan notices, that such an offer was still missing at the popular winter sports, we wrote more than ten years ago to the organising committee of the World Cup in Oberhof. Excited about the idea, the pilot project celebrated its premiere in 2011, back then only on one day as a test. Since the offer was well received, it was not only kept in the subsequent World Cups but was increased. Since then, tickets can be bought at the normal ticket sale, for which Meier is advertising among the associations for the blind and partially sighted people and uses the mouth-to-mouth propaganda of his guests.

Many regular customers and new guests

Someone who knows Holger Meier already since a long time is Michael Altenhofen. “I am a fan of his descriptions. With those I can experience the biathlon races much more intense2, explains the man from Frankfurt, who has tickets for the entire second week of the BMW IBU Biathlon World Championships 2023 in Oberhof. Two thirds of Meier’s guests are regular customers especially from Thuringia. Some fans however are welcomed for the first time.

And how does such a day of competition work? Approximately 45 minutes before the start of the race, Holger Meier’s work starts. He distributes headphones to the audience and equipped with a little microphone himself. Then he describes the weather, the stadium, the course of the race, and where the spectators sit so that the cheering and the “Oooooh” sounds are contextualised. “He also describes the appearances of athletes and further details. I like that. It has never happened that I had the feeling after a competition, I would have missed something important”, says Michael Altenhofen. Together with the information provided by the stadium announcer, the overall picture for an all-encompassing biathlon experience emerged.

Intense preparation

Similar as the athletes, Holger Meier is preparing intensely for each race. “It's exhausting, but I just go to bed early the night before a race, drink tea and save my voice”, Holger Meier sums up his preparation. He wrote the most important information on a memo and with the start of the race he describes everything that is happening.

At the BMW IBU Biathlon World Championships 2023 in Oberhof, Holger Meier has his ten years anniversary. “It is great, how smooth things are working here. After the first day, we moved to a new spot in the ARENA”, he says. Here it is spacious, easily accessible and provides him with a good overview to keep everything in sight for his descriptions.

Even Frank Ullrich convinced himself of that. At the single mixed relay on Thursday, the former elite athlete and head coach of the DSV team and current member of the Bundestag followed an invitation by Meier: “I am thrilled by the possibility that Oberhof and Herr Meier offer here. Inclusion is important in sports, with the athletes as well as with the fans, and needs to be fostered more.”