FIS President Gian Franco Kasper talks about fears of a lack of snow, problems attracting new talent to engage in popular sports and the 2026 Olympic Games in Switzerland.
Gian Franco Kasper: Of course as a native of St. Moritz, a world championship in my home town is an extremely special event. Here I feel like I’m responsible for every single detail, from start to finish. It’s a bit stressful too. Right now, though, all of the preparations seem to be proceeding quite smoothly. After all, St. Moritz has decades of experience when it comes to hosting sporting events. Now the weather just has to play along.
Of course if the host country is doing well, that always helps boost the general mood at a tournament. That’s why I’d really like to see Swiss athletes notch up their performance a bit after a few rather disappointing results. Italian and Austrian fans will be bringing their high spirits to St. Moritz as well, there’s no doubt about that.
In Central Europe, skiing has lost ground as a popular sport. This is mainly due to fears about a lack of snow combined with extremely economical flights to warm regions during the winter. Globally, just the opposite is happening: Interest in skiing is enormous in Asia for instance. That’s why Asia is also a vitally important market that holds huge potential: for us, tourism and the skiing industry alike. China is already home to around 300 ski resorts and that number is set to increase by a factor of ten between now and the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. Growing international interest in skiing is also reflected in the ratings for World Cup races. Globally we’re seeing an increase of over 10 percent.
Sooner or later we’re going to have to take the World Cup championships into these emerging regions. Unfortunately, however, the winter only has a limited number of weekends and that, of course, restricts our scheduling somewhat. It means some traditional World Cup destinations might either have to forego their races or they won’t be able to host the races every year anymore, but I’m sure this won’t have any impact on Adelboden, Wengen or even Kitzbühel. In the end there will have to be a political discussion about this displacement between all of the parties involved.
Apart from the topic of expansion, our federation is also particularly concerned about new talent – not in elite sports, rather in popular sports. Early contact with winter sports used to be a normal part of childhood. That’s no longer the case in today’s world, especially for children with an immigrant background. Another factor is that a growing number of teachers are understandably reluctant to arrange ski camps given the immense responsibility these entail. This is the focus of our “Bring Children to the Snow” campaign and our effort to turn the tide around.
Of course as a lover of sports and member of the Olympic Committee, I welcome every effort to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Switzerland. Whether bids currently in the conceptual phase (for Grisons/Zurich and Western Switzerland) will be successful or not is a different matter entirely. But submitting a bid for Switzerland to host the 2026 Olympic Games is definitely the right thing to do. Switzerland very clearly has the potential to host the Winter Games.
I’m still extremely motivated. I’m quite simply a very avid sportsman and as nervous as a little boy before each and every race. My term ends in 2018, so I’ll decide whether I want to run again shortly before the next congress. I love the diversity of my day-to-day work. I’ve just been trying to cut down on the travel side of it. I don’t really need to spend 365 days a year in a plane anymore – 364 days are more than enough now.
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