(ATR) On the eve of the opening of the 50th Anniversary Alpine World Cup season, International Ski Federation chief Gian-Franco Kasper commended Beijing 2022 organizers, but not without taking a few humorous jabs at the unlikely Winter Games hosts.
Kasper’s remarks came during the annual FIS Forum Alpinum in Soelden, Austria, in addition to sitting down for an interview with Around the Rings.
Kasper confirmed to ATR that the proposed alpine skiing venue situated north of Beijing in Yanqing has been finalized. The Swiss IOC executive board member observed progress and visited venues during the IOC’s first coordination commission visit to Beijing from Oct. 10-12.
"The costs are high, especially for the downhill, but they are convinced that we will have an excellent downhill and they have the necessary altitude," Kasper said referring to Beijing 2022 organizers.
"You can’t see much in the woods, but the mountain is there," he said. "The snow conditions in that area are not very good.
"They’ll have the necessary water for snowmaking for the Olympic Games, but it might hurt in the future for (ski) tourism. The problem is that they need this water for Beijing, so if there is not enough water in Beijing, they probably will not like us very much in the ski world," Kasper joked.
Kasper admitted that the Beijing mayor joked with him as well, as he tried to allay any fears about depleting the city’s water supply to make snow.
"They have a certain mentality that is different from the rest of the world," Kasper said, proceeding to tell the story. "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 noted that there are currently 200-250 ski areas in China, a number that could balloon towards 1,000 in less than two years time.
"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."
Kasper said the IOC inspectors visited the snowboard/freestyle ski area in Zhiangjiakou also. "They already have the gondolas, they are building like hell, but not very nicely into the mountains."
"The future is very bright in China for our sport," Kasper said.
Kasper added that China will also likely invest heavily in all aspects of the ski industry.
The Swiss ski boss, who has led FIS since 1998, gave credit to Chinese sports officials for their ambition to develop and succeed at winter sports.
"The possibility is there and the Chinese are aware that it takes time. They have already put together thousands of youngsters in alpine skiing and it’s possible that they could already be there (competing) for the 2022 Winter Games," Kasper said. "There is no question they have the potential to be strong."
However, Kasper said he is not as impressed with Korea’s efforts ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Games.
"It’s different in Korea and to be honest I’m a little bit disappointed – they haven’t invested enough in new athletes and new teams in alpine skiing," he said.
However, Kasper conceded that they are becoming more competitive in ice sports as well as freestyle skiing and snowboarding
"It’s a pity because the success of the organization of an Olympic Games is compared to the success of the home team," Kasper said, pointing out that Korea has no competitive alpine skiers.
Ski Racing Season Ahead
This weekend’s 50th FIS season opening races mark the 19th time that they have been contested in the picturesque Austrian Tyrolean village of Soelden, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) southwest of Innsbruck.
The 2016-17 alpine season is comprised of 76 men’s and women’s events spread across 14 countries. During the inaugural season of World Cup in 1967, 34 races took place in six countries.
This season’s schedule includes a ladies’ trip to the new Jeongseon Olympic downhill course in PyeongChang. They will race a downhill and super-G on the Bernhard Russi designed course, as did the men last February.
Kasper pointed out that FIS will host four world championships across all FIS disciplines in 2016-2017. All 330 World Cup events will be televised. FIS will sanction more than 7,000 events on all levels of competition.
The women race a giant slalom on the Rettenbach Glacier above Soelden, while the men compete in the same discipline on Sunday.
Additional FIS Developments
International Ski Federation secretary general Sarah Lewis also addressed the audience at Forum Alpinum outlining some new developments taking affect for the 50th Anniversary season.
"It’s going to be a special one – 50 years being celebrated in January and there will a lot of important events taking place this winter," Lewis said.
"It’s been terrific to see how many of the organizers are really planning their own special ways to celebrate this landmark.
"We’re confident that there will be a lot of extra hype and publicity around this season and that can only be good for our sport."
Lewis noted that six new national associations were accepted into the FIS family at the federation’s May congress in Cancun, Mexico. It increases the total of member nations to 128, significantly greater than all other Winter IF’s.
FIS also adopted the resolution to make the Athletes Commission representative a full status member of the FIS council for the first time. Sweden’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, 32, has that honor this season.
Lewis noted that the system regarding financial support that FIS pays to the National Ski Associations has been modified. Fifteen million Swiss Francs ($15.08 million) are paid over a two-year period and it is now split according to the nation’s level of activity – amount of events organized and athlete participation across all disciplines on all levels.
Written by Brian Pinelliin Soelden, Austria
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