Interview with Gian Franco Kasper - Part I

28 August 2013 13:20
FIS President Gian Franco Kasper
FIS President Gian Franco Kasper -

With the start of the Olympic season just around the corner in addition to the upcoming IOC Session in September, it has been a busy summer for FIS President Gian Franco Kasper. FIS Newsflash took a moment to sit down with him to look ahead to the exciting future. In the first part of the two-part series, Kasper talks about Sochi and the Olympic movement. 

Q: Clearly Sochi is on everyone’s minds entering the season. You have been intimately involved in the preparations, what can skiing and snowboard fans expect in February?

A: From an organizational side, the Sochi Games will be perfectly executed. There is such strong political and financial support that the Games are sure to succeed. The snow has been a major concern, but the Organisers have done an excellent job addressing the issue, by creating and storing more than 450,000 square meters of snow. This will be extremely important for Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping, which are at lower altitudes, but it could also come into play for Alpine Skiing too.

Q: Is there any potential downfalls you see as Sochi approaches?

A: I think the emotional atmosphere of the Olympics will be missing a bit, especially in the mountain venues where there are restrictions on the number of spectators. The past Games have all had a fantastic enthusiasm and atmosphere, but travelling to Sochi is difficult for the everyday fan. There’s no doubt on television, the Games will still be great and athletes will still experience unforgettable Olympics.

Q: It will be the first-ever Olympics for ladies ski jumping. Are you pleased with the progress of skiing’s newest discipline?

A: We have had ladies Ski Jumping on the World Cup programme for a few years now and in that time we have seen solid progress. The number of nations and athletes taking part continues to increase. It is also good to see that the ladies are more competitive than ever. It is a discipline that is a definite positive addition to the Olympic programme. And its debut can only help the sport continue to grow in popularity and talent. Last season’s highly successful mixed team event (ed: two ladies and two men) at the FIS World Championships demonstrated the progress the ladies have made and the respect they have earned for their performance level.

Q: How will Sochi be different from previous Olympics?

A: Every Olympics is completely unique. This is the most important aspect of each edition of the Olympic Games. Every one represents the culture and spirit of the host country and even the region where it is held. One never knows what the legacy or atmosphere of any given Games will be until it is underway. But I am sure Russia will put on an Olympics like no other we have seen.

Q: The FIS disciplines will hand out 49 gold medals during the course of the Games. Does FIS hope to add to this number for the 2018 edition of the Games?

A: The trend right now is to slow the growth of the Games in terms of the number of athletes and disciplines. But there is still room on the winter programme for growth. In terms of sports, the Winter Games are nearly maxed out, but there is still room for more events. Personally, I would like to see the Alpine Team Event added to the 2018 line up which has proven to be a hugely popular and competitive event on the FIS calendar and enjoyed a successful debut at the Youth Olympic Games. The timing is also just right for the Ski Jumping mixed team event.

Q: It’s a major year for the IOC with the 2020 Olympic host to be voted on and a new IOC President to be named about a month from now and a new sport to be added to the Summer programme. What are your expectations for the Session in Buenos Aries?

A: There will definitely not be a dull moment! There is a lot of discussion and it is almost impossible to speculate what will come out of the Session. The three candidate cities for 2020 (Tokyo, Istanbul, Madrid) are all strong contenders. With six men vying for the IOC Presidency, anything can happen. But I would be pleased with any of the six as they are all very good and qualified individuals. I think a highly-anticipated decision will be to see what sport is added to the Summer programme. Clearly, there has been a strong lobby for wrestling to be reinstated, but at these Sessions, anything can happen.

Q: There’s also a new SportAccord President, how will this affect FIS?

A: He has a strong vision and a lot of ideas, which is always exciting for sport. It might be difficult to implement all of the ideas. His biggest vision is to have all sports compete in a United World Championship with all sports and events being held within a month of each other in the same geographic region. It is a lofty ambition, but it might be hard to get all of the sports on board. For example, in 2017 when the first edition is planned, we already have our World Championship hosts. Some of his other ideas include an International Sport Insurance, an International Sports Bank and an International Sports Lottery. All will take a lot of planning to implement, but it is good to have new ideas being talked about. 

Q: How do you feel the Olympic season is different from the others during the four-year cycle?

A: In an Olympic season it is clear for everyone -- the athletes, the teams, the fans, the federations – what the highlight is. The rest of the season, the world of winter sports is all over the map, but for three weeks, we all come together with the same focus. It truly gives all of the winter sports a focal point.