Delnice, the biggest town in the mountainous Gorski Kotar region, was being considered for the host of an international snowboarding championship scheduled for March 5th, 2022.
The event was supposed to finally put the Delnice ski jumping ramps to good use, a facility that cost the County some 800,000 kuna when it was first built, only for it to never host any athletes or sporting events. Over time, the ramps became a sad symbol of pointless local investments, reports Novi list/Marinko Krmpotić.
A chance for Delnice to turn things around came when the town was presented with an opportunity to host a snowboarding championship in March 2022. The initiative came from Leo Pavela, a councillor of Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, who reached out to president of Rijeka’s Snowboard Club Nine Miodrag Toskić to discuss potential plans for the organisation of the event.
‘Our goal was to use this international competition to present Delnice and Gorski Kotar in the media as Croatian ski destinations. At the event itself, we wanted to highlight the history of Delnice through the story of ski jumping, presentation of a former ski manufacturer and the promotion of Delnice as a centre for basic training of athletes. The entertainment programme was supposed to feature the best DJs of Gorski Kotar, and there were also negotiations to organise a sale of products made in Gorski Kotar’, said Pavela.
In October 2021, Toskić and Pavela met with Delnice Mayor Katarina Mihelčić and Director of the Gorski Kotar Tourist Board Petar Hrg. The parties agreed that the funds were to be raised in a joint effort, with Pavela tasked with securing 50,000 kuna from the county budget; the City of Delnice offered to allocate 30,000 kuna, and the tourist board was to provide 20,000 kuna.
This is where things got complicated, with a failure in communication that resulted in Delnice losing the bid to host the snowboarding event.
While the Gorski Kotar Tourist Board and the County both held their end of the bargain, Pavela and Toskić claim that Mayor Mihelčić failed to respond to their request for funding, first sent by Toskić on December 1st, 2021. An official reply was reportedly sent from the City of Delnice, but was returned to sender over an incorrect address several times in the span of two months.
‘It’s unbelievable that regardless of the fact that mail was returned to the local authorities several times, no one at the City of Delnice found it necessary to check the address or notify the organiser by email, or at least give him a phone call to resolve the issue. Such negligence shown by the City towards the event that was supposed to be very important for the promotion of winter sports in Delnice and Gorski Kotar resulted in the transfer of Delnice Snowboard Session to Platak, which saddened many people of Gorski Kotar’, said Pavela.
As the organisers didn’t receive a guarantee they’d get the promised funding in time, a decision was made for the snowboarding event to be held in Platak instead of Delnice. Platak is a ski resort located to the northeast of Rijeka.
Delnice Mayor Katarina Mihelčić tells a different story. Approached by Novi list for a comment on the accusations, she called Pavela’s statements an arbitrary interpretation of facts.
‘All we asked of the organisers was to apply to the tender of the City of Delnice before February 18th, 2022 so that we could justify the allocation of funds from the City’s budget in the amount of 30,000 kuna. Moreover, we tried to inform the organisers of this both by email and regular mail’, said Mayor Mihelčić.
She provided a detailed timeline of the bizarre chain of events: on December 9th, the City of Delnice informed the organisers that the funds were not set aside in the city budget and that they need to apply to a public tender. In the same month, on the 10th and 31st respectively, the City sent two notices in the mail, but both letters were returned marked ‘Unknown recipient’.
Toskić called the Mayor’s offices on January 11th, 2022 to let them know he didn’t receive their reply, and gave them the email of the snowboarding club so that they could forward him a scanned copy. Three days later, on January 14th, he called again saying he didn’t get the email and again gave them the same email address, along with his private email.
A month later, he emailed the mayor saying that the snowboarding club would be forced to move the championship to Platak if the City of Delnice doesn’t sponsor the event with 30,000 kuna.
On February 15th, a reply was sent to Toskić stating that the City of Delnice can allocate funds in the maximum possible amount of 5,000 kuna at this point, in accordance with the valid legislation regarding sponsorship. He was again encouraged to apply to the public tender, and the rest of the necessary funds would have been allocated from a different section of the budget, namely the funds intended for the development of tourism.
In return, Toskić sent a reply on February 16th stating that he doesn’t have time to apply to tenders, that he couldn’t launch the final phase of the organisation without signed sponsorship agreements, and that the entire championship would be organised at Platak instead.
‘We wanted to give them the funds, but only in accordance with legal provisions that clearly define the manner and purpose of the allocation. The Club was not able to meet those demands, and now they assign us the blame. I wonder why, and if it was all done on purpose to create another media affair’, said Mihelčić. The last part of her statement likely refers to a recent dispute between several parties interested in the lease of a business space in Delnice, with the public tender reportedly carried out in a somewhat questionable manner.
The Town of Delnice provided documentation to Novi list, including the email correspondence which clearly shows they demanded that the organisers apply to the public tender so that the funds could be allocated for the event.