Ski Chief Reveals Sochi Concerns

(ATR) Gian Franco Kasper is confident the Sochi Olympics will be “perfectly executed” but may lack atmosphere.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 09:  A competitor makes a Ski Jump during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup at the RusSki Gorki venue on December 9, 2012 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 09: A competitor makes a Ski Jump during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup at the RusSki Gorki venue on December 9, 2012 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

(ATR) International Ski Federation (FIS) president Gian Franco Kasper is confident the Sochi Olympics will be "perfectly executed" but claims the Games may lack atmosphere.

"There is such strong political and financial support that the Games are sure to succeed," he said in an interview on the FIS website.

"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."

The IOC member from Switzerland revealed he does have some concerns for the Sochi Games.

"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," he said.

"The past Games have all had a fantastic enthusiasm and atmosphere, but traveling 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."

Asked if he was satisfied with the progress of women’s ski jumping, which will debut in Sochi, he said advances had been made thanks to its position on the World Cup program in recent years.

"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 program. And its debut can only help the sport continue to grow in popularity and talent," he added.

A total of 49 gold medals in the FIS disciplines will be handed out at Sochi 2014.

Despite ongoing concerns about the cost and size of the Olympics, Kasper said he hoped FIS could increase this number for the PyeongChang 2018 Games.

"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 program for growth," he said.

"In terms of sports, the Winter Games are nearly maxed out, but there is still room for more events. I would like to see the Alpine team event added to the 2018 lineup 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."

Kasper was also questioned about his expectations for next week’s IOC Session in Buenos Aires at which three major decisions will be made – the IOC vote on the 2020 host city, a new sport for the summer Olympic program and elections for a new IOC president.

"There is a lot of discussion and it is almost impossible to speculate what will come out of the Session," he said. "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."

Kasper added that the sport vote, a choice between baseball-softball, squash and wrestling, was a "highly-anticipated decision."

"Clearly, there has been a strong lobby for wrestling to be reinstated, but at these Sessions, anything can happen," he added.

Reported by Mark Bisson

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