(ATR) Gian Franco Kasper was one of the most compelling interviews in all of sports business – candid, colorful, engaging, outspoken, often brutally honest, critical at times and frequently satirical and humorous, even if it got him into hot water on occasion.
The longtime FIS president and IOC member, who died on Saturday, told it like it is. Kasper was friendly and generous with his time. Journalists relished conversations with Kasper, often conducted in an informal setting outside of meetings or at the bottom of a racecourse.
Here is a sampling of some of his best quotes provided to Around the Rings and other media from over the years:
"I probably have the record of attendance at Olympic Winter Games – I started and have a proof with a photo in 1948. I was a child in my mother’s arms when the Olympics were in my hometown. Since then, I have visited all Winter Games up until now. In '52, my father, who was involved with sports, took me with him to Oslo and then to Cortina in '56. I have seen enough Games that I have a certain experience and know how." – on attending 19 consecutive Winter Olympics to ATR in Dec. 2019.
"Thomas Bach doesn’t come from winter sports, that is clear, he’s a fencer, but he likes winter sports and has always been involved with winter sports in Germany. I’ve known him for something like 30 or 40 years. We have an excellent relationship and are really friends. I’m 100 percent sure he will do his utmost for our sports – don’t forget that he and his people in Bavaria are still interested in having a Winter Olympics there, so there really is no reason we should be frightened of Thomas Bach." – on welcoming Thomas Bach as new IOC president, at FIS Forum, Oct. 2013.
"It’s a very special location and situation there in Sochi and no question there will be tight security. I’m not afraid, but it will be unpleasant as there will be security checks when you go to venues, when you go to a bar, when you go to the toilet – OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. In a meeting with Sochi organizers, I said: ‘I hope our athletes will not be stopped and controlled during a race." – on tight security measures at the Sochi 2014 Games, at FIS Forum in 2013.
"In the old days of skiing, if you had a problem, you went to the next mountain hut, had a beer and discussed things. Nowadays, the lawyers of each athlete come out and big discussions are going to court. This is not easy. This is the professionalism or commercialism of sport." - on the evolving business of sport to ATR, Dec. 2019.
"From a sports point of view, the Russians did an excellent job, there’s no doubt. The luxury and gigantism is a different story. A lot of cities and countries feel they can no longer afford the Olympics after this $51 billion price tag in Sochi. This is not a good sign. Do you really need Buckingham Palace as your start for bobsled? – on how the Sochi 2014 Games' exorbitant price tag might affect future candidates in bidding for 2022.
"Dictators can organize events such as this without asking the people’s permission. For us, everything is easier in dictatorships." - Kasperin a 2019 interview with Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger in reference to China being awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics. A short time later he said the comments "were not meant to be taken literally".
"To be very honest, Norway should not believe they are the leaders of the world and that the world should do what Norway wants. You are a great country. You have a lot of good things, but you are only five million people." – after Norwegian politicians opted not to support an Oslo bid amid concerns about the IOC for the 2022 Winter Games.
"I really cannot comment about this because I have not seen Tina’s underwear." – Kasper asked about a Swiss Ski Federation protest against Slovenian skier Tina Maze that claimed her one-piece long underwear garment provided her with an unfair aerodynamic advantage.
"I have learned one thing – not to make jokes," Kasper to ATR discussing remarks he made about global warming, joking with media at the PyeongChang 2018 Games as temperatures plummeted to 25 degrees below Celsius and high winds played havoc on ski races.
"With the ladies ski jumpers, I read recently that in 2005, I said this and this. This is absolute bull**** - I’ll tell you honestly," Kasper to ATR in 2019, defending remarks attributed to him about the rigors of ski jumping not being suitable for ladies. "It was in 1978 when I was secretary general at a press conference that I had to say that our medical committee decided and was afraid that ladies’ ski jumping was not healthy. That was all. Now 30 years later, they put it as a personal opinion that I expressed. I never did that."
"It is surprising to me it happened only two years ago that FIFA realized it might be warm in the summertime in Qatar. FIFA, please stay out of our winter months. Stay in Qatar – if you are sweating or not, that’s not our problem." - Kasper addressing rumors that FIFA would move up the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to February, conflicting with the Winter Olympics.
"They have a certain mentality that is different from the rest of the world. I met with the mayor of Beijing and we spoke about the lack of water and lack of snow and he said no problem – I will build an aqueduct to northern China, and if you prefer Swiss water, don’t worry, we can also build an aqueduct from Switzerland," Kasper said about preparations for Beijing 2022 and water to be used to make artificial snow. "This is the Chinese way – everything is bigger, greater and money doesn’t matter," the ski boss said. "Of course there is no resistance from the government – it’s amazing what they can do."
"I think it is the most beautiful town in the world. I’m more than critical - if even the smallest thing happens in my hometown, I’ll feel personally responsible," – Kasper about preparations for the 2017 Alpine world championships in his hometown of St. Moritz. "I’m quite sure the Alpine events will be fine, especially if we have the necessary sun as we normally do in St. Moritz, but let’s wait until mid-February before we praise them."
"One thing is for sure, we will never give up the downhill – it will always be in the Olympic Games and there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Honestly, this was never really a question, but if some IOC bureaucrats start to look into the cost of the Olympic Games, then they might say building the downhill course costs a lot of money and same for bobsleigh and luge. We have to make sure this never really becomes an issue to discuss within the IOC." – Kasper addressing rumors that the downhill event could be dropped from the Beijing 2022 Winter Games due to high costs.
"We have an excellent downhill course according to the athletes and coaches. It’s a beauty and a downhill that is really made for the Olympics. There are still a lot of challenges in front of you, Mr. Cho, and now we know that you can deliver." – Kasper addressing PyeongChang 2018 president Cho Yang-ho after a test event in Feb. 2016.
Homepage photo: ATR
Written and reported by Brian Pinelli
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