Welcome to Latvia and to the IBU Junior Open European Championships 2023!

The country is rich in history and natural beauty. Latvia has been ruled by numerous countries, it has a long and unique history that can still be felt today. At the same time, it has its own traditions that’s distinct from others. For example – as one of the last corners of Europe to join Christendom, Latvians are still very much pagans at heart. They worship nature by jumping over bonfires on Midsummer Eve.

Latvia is one of the three Baltic states, situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea,between Estonia and Lithuania. The country is also bordered by Russia and Belarus.

The country has a population of 1,9 million people (in 2020), capital and largest city is Riga, spoken languages are Latvian (official), English (especially younger generation), and Russian.

With an area of 64,589 km, Latvia is about half the size of Greece. Mostly flat landscape has almost 500 km of coastline, half of the territory is covered with forest, making Latvia one of the greenest countries in Europe. There are four major regions: West Latvia (Kurzeme), East Latvia (Latgale), North Latvia (Vidzeme), and South Latvia (Zemgale).

Latvia is a developed country, with a high-income advanced economy; ranking very high in the Human Development Index. It performs favorably in measurements of civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance, living standards, and peacefulness. Latvia is a member of the European Union, Eurozone, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Nordic-Baltic Eight and others.

You don’t need to go to a health food store in Latvia to find organic food, because locals find fantastic ingredients on their own. From birch sap juice in spring to berries in summer and mushrooms in autumn, Latvians are a nation of foragers, farmers, hunters and fishers.

So, enjoy the nature, the history, the food and atmosphere while you’re in Latvia.

Official tourism information available: Visit Latvia.


Madona is a town in the Vidzeme region of Latvia and is the center of the Madona municipality. It is 170 km east from Latvian capital Riga, around 180 km from Riga International Airport.

Madona is also known as the winter capital of Latvia and it offers activities both in winter and summer. Many cross-country, roller-skiing, bicycle and forest trails are in the surroundings of Madona.

The unique scenery around Madona offers outstanding possibilities for training and athletic competitions. Latvian and also international competitions are organized for different disciplines: biathlon, cross-country skiing, orienteering (both – during summer and winter), running, cycling, running events, sled dog races and more.

It is the best place to spend a holiday!

More information about Madona is provided by Visit Madona.

Track “Smeceres sils”

The hilly terrain of the Madona area and the long history of deep, persistent winters have served as the basis for the development of winter sports on this side. Athletes from Madona municipality have participated in European and world championships, as well as in the Olympic Games. Biathletes Ivars Silups, Gundars Upenieks, Raivis Zīmelis and cross-country skiers Kitija Auziņa, Roberts Raimo, Rinalds Kostyukovs and Raimo Vigants have used and train in the “Smeceres sils” track.

“Smeceres sils” winter sports base began to be built in the 80s of the last century, when everything regarding
cross-country skiing and biathlon developed rapidly in the Soviet Union.

The development continued at another level in 2002, when the first retrack (tractor for efficient preparation of ski tracks) was purchased, but in 2019 modern biathlon shooting range with 30 illuminated electronic mechanical targets for purposes that meet the requirements of the IBU for the organization of international biathlon competitions were developed.

Currently, during the winter season, the “Smeceres sils” base offers a wide range of cross-country skiing tracks
network, offering active recreation opportunities for athletes of various levels, as well as for others who love active lifestyle.

If there is a lot of natural snow, the total length of the tracks exceeds 50 kilometers. Also artificial snow is blown every winter which allows to maintain the three-kilometer illuminated cross-country skiing track from early December to April. Starting from 2021, a snow deposit system is working as well – snow, accordingly covered, is kept during the summer so that the ski season can be started as soon as possible.

Not only Latvian, but also European and even global events are regularly held in “Smeceres Sils” track, such as World Cup in winter orienteering (2006). Since 2011, the Scandinavian Cup competition has been held here, which brings together leading athletes from Scandinavia and the Baltic countries. “Smeceres sils” has held the European Championship, the World Junior and Veteran Championships in winter orientation (2013) and World Championship in Roller Skiing (2019).

Winter 2023 will be one of the busiest ones: before IBU Junior Open European Championships 2023 (13.-19.02.) European Ski Orienteering Championships and World Cup, Junior World Ski Orienteering Championships, European Youth Ski Orienteering Championships will take place.