Ski Federation President's Interview Draws Criticism
International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper made several controversial statements in favor of working with dictators rather than environmentalists during an interview published in Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeigner on February 4.
The 75-year old, who has served as FIS president since 1988, said that he much prefers to deal with dictators when hosting major sports competitions like the Winter Olympics. “Everything is easier in dictatorships,” Kasper told Tages-Anzeigner. “Dictators can organize big events without asking the people’s permission.”
“From the business side, I say: I just want to go to dictatorships,” Kasper continued, “I do not want to argue with environmentalists.”
When asked his opinion on human rights abuses that occur in dictatorships, he clarified that he draws the line if the citizens of the authoritarian country in question are starving. “I do not want to go to a country, invest in skiing there, while the population starves. That’s where I draw the red line. If Qatar applied tomorrow for the Olympics, then I am against,” Kasper told Tages-Anzeigner.
Kasper not only showed his displeasure toward working with environmentalists but also expressed skepticism over environmental concerns like climate change.
An anecdote about the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea illustrated his opinions about “so-called” climate change. “We have snow, sometimes even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had -35C (-31F). Everybody who came up to me shivering I greeted with, ‘welcome to global warming,’” Kasper joked.
Toward the end of the interview, Kasper added that the decline of winter sports in Switzerland can be explained by immigration. “The second generation of immigrants has nothing to do with skiing,” Kasper said. “There are no ski camps anymore.”
Kasper’s remarks came in the middle of the skiing world championship in Sweden. According to the Washington Post, Norwegian skier Aksel Lund Svindal, who is competing in his last race before retirement, said that Kasper’s remarks were “stupid” and “complete gibberish.”
Three days after the Tages Anzeigner interview, Kasper apologized. He expressed regret over the “misunderstanding” that has “taken attention away from athletes” and said that his comments “were not meant to be taken literally, but this was not clear in the final story.”
This is not the first time that Kasper has been criticized for contentious commentary. According to the Guardian, in 2005, Kasper told NPR that women should not compete in ski jumping for health reasons, saying "it's like jumping down from, let's say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies.”