The Ski World Cup gets underway on the Sölden glacier in Austria on October 25.This content was published on October 12, 2003 - 11:45
Ahead of the new season, the president of the International Ski Federation, Switzerland’s Gian Franco Kasper, told swissinfo he was confident the competition was going from strength to strength.
Elected president in 1998, Kasper, who comes from canton Graubünden, has been involved with the federation since 1975, having spent 23 years as secretary-general.
swissinfo caught up with Kasper in his office at the federation’s headquarters in Oberhofen in canton Bern.
swissinfo: Looking back over your five years as president of the International Ski Federation, what would you say are you main achievements?
Gian Franco Kasper: We have introduced a lot of new competition formats in Alpine, cross-country and Nordic skiing events - for example, cross-country sprints - and new starting orders for the super G and downhill categories.
We have also completely professionalised our structure.
The competitions are no longer organised by amateurs, but by professionals who travel to the competition sites. This has made us more consistent.
swissinfo: There has been talk in the past of the federation having its own television channel. What stage is this project at?
G.F.C.: It still exists, but we’ve had to put it on hold for the moment due to the problems affecting the big media groups, such as the Germany's Kirch.
We are currently in discussion with a television channel about creating a channel dedicated to skiing in winter. But nothing has been agreed.
Otherwise, we still have a global contract with Eurovision, which is valid until 2009. This has given us financial security for the near future and has convinced our main sponsors to continue supporting us.
swissinfo: The ski season is about to start on the Sölden glacier. Does this event hold any specific importance?
G.F.C.: Yes. For the past five years, it has allowed us to start the World Cup on a high. However, this year there are concerns because the exceptionally hot summer means there is not much snow on the glacier at the moment and the competitions can’t take place on ice.
But the main events are still the Olympics and the World Ski Championships.
swissinfo: How did you find the last World Championships at St Moritz?
G.F.K.: Quite simply: perfect. I’m not saying that because I come from the resort, but because everything came together well at the event.
These events are very important for the development of the sport, particularly in Asia, where the Chinese market is expected to open up and really take off in the near future.
Our federation, which already has 102 nation members, is expected to continue to grow. Iraq has recently made an official request for affiliation.
swissinfo: The problem of doping continues to cast a shadow on the world of sports, including skiing. How does the federation combat this problem?
G.F.C.: We don’t have many concerns about the downhill, freestyle or jumping categories. But the cases we’ve had recently at the Olympics in cross-country skiing nearly brought an end to the category.
As a federation, we try to do as much as we can to educate the athletes and increase the number of tests. We work with the World Anti-Doping Agency and we will invest about SFr1 million ($760,000) this winter to try to curb the problem.
We can’t deny that the war is far from being won. But we must do what we can to combat it, even if it means taking each case through costly court procedures.
swissinfo-interview: Mathias Froideveaux
Gian Franco Kasper was born in 1944 in St Moritz.
He was Secretary-General of the International Ski Federation from 1975 until 1998, when he became president.
Kasper was elected as an executive member of the International Olympic Committee during the 2000 games in Sydney.
He also became an executive member of the World Anti-Doping Agency in January.
The official Ski World Cup is due to start on the weekend of October 25 and 26 on the Sölden glacier in Austria.