Welcome to my favourite time of the year, when skiing and snowboarding take centre stage and the FIS World Championships dominate the news and airwaves, bringing our sport into the spotlight and closer to the world.
Right now, 28 medal events are underway at the FIS Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships in Park City (USA), while on the other side of the globe we just completed our first race at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Are (SWE). Waiting in the wings are the Nordic athletes, who will soon have their shot at Cross-Country, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined gold in Seefeld (AUT), which kicks off on 20thFebruary.
It is truly a remarkable month of February for FIS.
It is a privilege to be a sports organisation that has such a large and diverse line-up of competitions and athletes, which embrace the rich diversity of our disciplines. From the youthful excitement of the debut of Freestyle big air that took place earlier this week, to watching Alpine Skiing super stars Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal competing in their last career competitions, to preparing to enjoy our most traditional and longstanding Nordic disciplines in Seefeld. FIS truly can say we are the heart of winter sports, and nothing makes me prouder than the fact that we can offer something for everyone interested in snow sports.
There can nevertheless be significant challenges in organising so many events in a compact and fixed period of time with the associated logistics and the fact that many of the competitions such require good weather particularly in view of athlete safety, with sufficient visibility and without excessive wind.
It is however of great value that the venues can be utilised to their best effect with full competition programmes offering diverse events that showcase different skills of the impressive athletes. This thereby enables the Organisers to offer a full schedule of events during the Championship period and therefore offer more opportunities to the public to see the best in the world competing live. Similarly they can generate more revenues from ticket sales visitors, alongside sponsor income to finance the organisation.
A remark published in the media, which appears to have been taken out of context concerning this depth and breadth of different FIS competitions notably at the Olympic Winter Games, relates to my concerns of having to build new venues for additional sports, leading to so-called gigantismus, and especially in places where there is likely to be limited legacy for their use otherwise.
It is therefore heartening to see how our three FIS World Championship 2019 hosts embody a philosophy that FIS holds close to its core. Park City and Deer Valley are perhaps perfect examples of how a strong legacy from an Olympic Winter Games can last for decades. These venues hosting a complex multi-event FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championship are pre-existing from the Salt Lake City 2002 Games 17 years ago, requiring only modest investment from the Organisers.
Are is setting an entirely new standard in sustainable FIS Alpine World Ski Championships achieving full ISO certification, that will hopefully be the level that all future championships aspire to. Their efforts to make these World Championships fully sustainable are extraordinary, from electric cars with the long-term partner of skiing Audi introducing the highly-acclaimed Etron, to a carbon neutral commitment, as well as sustainable food, the Are Organisers have left no stone unturned.
Seefeld’s dedication to leave a legacy for its community and use the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships as a catalyst for tourism are inspired with examples such as recreational cross-country courses to suit all levels and a brand new train station in the heart of the town that is only minutes away by foot from the competition venue. One of FIS’ key missions is to get the next generation involved in snow sports and Seefeld’s dedication to growing falls right in line with our goals.
And naturally, I am very excited to watch the breath-taking performances of our elite athletes across every FIS discipline. I, like every ski, snowboard and general sports fan and viewer, love this time of year when I can turn on the television and be treated to hours of snow sport competitions – and I know most of you feel the same excitement.
Recently, a report surfaced in the Swiss media with several controversial comments attributed to me. First and foremost, I would like to apologise as these comments were not meant to be taken literally but this was not clear in the final story. I take full responsibility for this misunderstanding and am sorry it has taken attention away from our athletes competing in the FIS World Championships.
So now let us focus on the highlight of the competition season with the FIS World Championships and join me in welcoming the world to the most exciting month of the year for anyone who has skiing and snowboarding in their heart. Enjoy!
Gian Franco Kasper