The first World Championship in biathlon was held in 1958 in Austria, and in 1960 the sport was finally included in the Olympic Games. At Albertville in 1992, women were first allowed in Olympic biathlon.
The competitions from 1958 to 1965, used high-power centerfire rifle cartridges (such as .30-06, 7.62 mm NATO, etc.) before the .22LR rimfire cartridge was standardized in 1978. The ammunition was carried in a belt worn around the competitor's waist. With the only competition being the men's 20 km individual, four different ranges and firing distances of 100 m, 150 m, 200 m, and 250 m. The target distance was reduced to 150 m with the addition of the relay in 1966. The shooting range was further reduced to 50 m in 1978 with the mechanical targets making their debut at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Newer electronic targets (similar to mechanical targets) are now used in all major competitions such as World Cups, World Championships, and the Olympics. The targets, using computerized sensors, are superior to mechanical targets as they require fewer officials for recording and reseting the targets and they allow for instant shot recording, needed for live television broadcasts. The mechanical targets were also shown in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only when Bond was in Cortina d'Ampezzo while a biathlon competition was ongoing.
In 1948, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon (UIPMB) was founded, to standardise the rules for biathlon and modern pentathlon. In 1993, the biathlon branch of the UIPMB created the International Biathlon Union (IBU), which officially separated from the UIPMB in 1998.
Presidents of the UIPMB/IBU:
The following articles list major international biathlon events and medalists. Contrary to the Olympics and World Championships (BWCH), the World Cup (BWC) is an entire winter season of (mostly) weekly races, where the medalists are those with the highest sums of World Cup points at the end of the season.
The complete rules of biathlon is given in the official IBU rule book (see External links, below). However, the concise description given below, along with the section on competition format, should be enough for a spectator to understand what is going on at a biathlon stadium whether actually being there or at home watching a televised biathlon event.
A biathlon competition consists of a race in which contestants ski around a cross-country track, and where the total distance is broken up by either two or four shooting rounds, half in prone position, the other half standing. Depending on the shooting performance, extra distance or time is added to the contestant's total running distance/time. As in most races, the contestant with the shortest total time wins.
For each shooting round, the biathlete must hit five targets; each missed target must be "atoned for" in one of three ways, depending on the competition format:
In order to keep track of the contestants' progress and relative standing throughout a race, split times (intermediate times) are taken at several points along the skiing track and upon finishing each shooting round. The large display screens commonly set up at biathlon arenas, as well as the information graphics shown as part of the TV picture, will typically list the split time of the fastest contestant at each intermediate point and the times and time differences to the closest runners-up.
The target range shooting distance is . There are five circular targets to be hit in each shooting round. When shooting in the prone position the target diameter is , when shooting in the standing position the target diameter is . On all modern biathlon ranges, the targets are self-indicating, in that they flip from black to white when hit, giving the biathlete as well as the spectators instant visual feedback for each shot fired.
World Cup events and World Championships in biathlon have traditionally been held at the following few locations. Due to the complicated shooting range equipment, which absolutely has to work in order to hold successful races, biathlon is a highly demanding sport for organisers.
|Country||Major biathlon venues|
|CanmoreValcartierCharlo, New BrunswickCallaghan Valley, British Columbia|
|Nové Město na Moravě|
|Fort Kent, MEPresque Isle, MELake Placid, NYSoldier Hollow, UT|
Biathlon events are broadcast most regularly where the sport enjoys its greatest popularity, namely Germany (ARD, ZDF), Austria (ORF), Norway (NRK), Finland (YLE), Estonia (ETV), Croatia (HRT), Poland (TVP), Sweden (SVT), Russia (Sport), Belarus (TVR), Slovenia (RTV), Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHRT), Bulgaria (BNT), South Korea (KBS); it is broadcast on European-wide Eurosport, which also broadcasts to the Asia-Pacific region. World Cup races are streamed (without commentary) via the IBU website and some of these events are available on the World Championship Sports Network (WCSN).
The broadcast distribution being one indicator, the constellation of a sport's main sponsors usually gives a similar, and correlated, indication of popularity: for biathlon, these are the Germany-based companies E.ON Ruhrgas (energy), Krombacher (beer), and Viessmann (boilers and other heating systems).
The Boy Scouts of America offers a Bikeathlon variant at their national Scout jamboree that mixes BMX biking with air rifle shooting at biathlon type targets, and Philmont Scout Ranch has recently begun offering a similar activity.
Cadets Canada also offers biathlon to cadets across Canada, with 3 stages; zones, provincial and national. Zone competitions are occasionally, due to lack of snow in some southern areas, held as summer biathlon. A .22 caliber rifle is used at all levels. Races are shorter than world class events. More information can be found at the National Cadet Biathlon Championship website.
Biathlon's two sports disciplines:
Other multi-discipline sports (otherwise unrelated to biathlon):
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