49th FIS Congress kicks off in Barcelona


Registration at the 49th annual FIS Congress.

Registration at the 49th FIS Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

BARCELONA, Spain — The International Ski Federation (FIS) will open its 49th Congress here Sunday. The primary mission of the gathering will be to elect a new council of 16 members and to determine World Championship sites in the six FIS winter sport disciplines.

Twenty-two candidates are vying for 16 Council positions with only the FIS President, Gian Franco Kasper, guaranteed a seat since he is running unopposed. Important for the United States will be the election of Dexter Paine to the FIS Council. Paine has been nominated to succeed Bill Marolt who is stepping down after 12 years in the position. A long-time winter sport enthusiast, Paine has chaired USSA for eight years and has been heavily involved in reviewing the organization. It was Paine’s initiative to have McKinsey and Co. study the governing body with an eye to the future. Their findings, which Paine had published on the Internet, have been studied and used by a number of national governing bodies worldwide.

The FIS will also select organizers for world championships in all of its disciplines.

Cortina, Italy and Are, Sweden are vying for council approval to determine the 2019 alpine championships with the outcome in doubt. Are is thought to have the stronger bid, but the Italians, who have not hosted a major event in Cortina since Toni Sailer infamously swept Olympic alpine gold in 1956, may be gaining ground.

Four organizers are in a free-for-all for the honor of hosting the 2019 Nordic World Championships. Obersdorf, Germany and Planica, Slovenia are thought to be the lead challengers for the event, but Seefeld, Austria is also in the mix. The fourth bid by Almaty, Kazakhstan is given but a distant chance.

In Nordic, the challenge for the FIS Council which decides the outcome is to determine which of the organizers would be the best for the sport. Germany has the largest television market by far, but they hosted the alpine World Championships a scant three years ago. Slovenia has never hosted a World Championship, and while its candidate, Planica, is known for its ski flying contests, the organizers have poured 70 million euros ($95 million) into facilities and infrastructure, mounting a strong candidacy. Seefeld, which has hosted Olympic Winter Games, is thought to be the dark horse in the chase.

The United States has two major initiatives for Congress approval. USSA is bidding for the 2019 World Freestyle and Snowboard Championships. The event will be held at three resorts, Deer Valley Resort, Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort. Importantly, the association has partnered with the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) and Ticket to Ride (TTR) World Snowboard Tour to bring the world’s best athletes to the events.

There are no competitive organizations contesting the USSA bid, but the inclusion of APF and TTR, while it provides the opportunity to bring the best athletes to the contest, provides some pause as the management of TTR is openly trying to replace the FIS as the IOC representative in the snowboard discipline.

USSA is also that proposing the FIS consider two events, big air and a snowboard team event for inclusion in the Olympic Winter Games. Both have been staples of the FIS World Snowboard and Freestyle Championships. Inclusion would not impact athlete numbers which is a key concern of the IOC, according to USSA staff.

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