Austrians mishandle timing; cost to World Cup organizers may exceed $1.5 million US


Austrians mishandle timing; cost to World Cup organizers may exceed $1.5 million US{mosimage}SÖLDEN, Austria World Cup Race organizers could have unanticipated bills in excess of $1.5 million due to a clash between the Austrian Ski Federation and the International governing body, the FIS. Race timing became a major issue at the opening races in Sölden when the Austrian Ski Federation President, Peter Schröcksnadel, refused to enter into an agreement with the FIS, who had negotiated a global contract covering all alpine World Cup timing and data production with the Swiss timing company Swatch. The service was to provide all alpine World Cup organizers with timing and data services at no cost.

The decision resulted in last minute scrambling by the organizers, simplistic race timing and no data transmittal from the race site. Live timing was also not available. The timing arrangement was done by Alge under the aegis of the German electronics giant Siemens.

Klaus Leistner, Secretary General of the Austrian Federation said the FIS offered an overall timing contract, ‘but there was no money out of it.’

‘We explored to see if there was another party interested and found Siemens who does Formula 1′ Leistner said.

‘Swatch was ready to come up and do the timing as late as Thursday’ said the obviously rankled FIS president, Gian Franco Kasper, ‘but he (Schröcksnadel) said no. Kasper pointed out that the Austrian decision was in opposition to action by the FIS council which unanimously approved the concept of global timing agreement at the June FIS Congress in Miami. Mr. Schröcksnadel is a member of the council.

The lack of cooperation and the last minute refusal was apparent. Delays in timing caused the live television announcers to pause for almost 10 seconds before they could pronounce Sweden’s Anja Paerson the winner of the women’s race Saturday. FIS officials bemoaned the fact that spectators and viewers alike did not know the current race standings, interval times, or a racers second run position as the race went on. There was no live timing available to internet services either.

At one point in the women’s race, Caroline Lalive was shown leading the opening run by over seven seconds. Her time stayed posted for a number of racers before being pulled of the screen. Her real time and position did not become available until the end of the first leg of the event where Lalive wound up 36th.

According to FIS officials, the Austrian Federation spent well over €120,000 ($151,250), but received €42,000 ($53,000) from Siemens, a statement Leistner disputes.

‘We were able to have a considerable amount of money left over’ Leistner said but he declined to give any figures. Leistner also noted the federation had informed the FIS of its position in a letter to the FIS council prior to its meeting in early June.

The decision affects all alpine World Cup organizers outside of Austria as Swatch has indicated they only want a global agreement for the circuit. In past years the Swiss watch giant had deals with individual national federations but according to Kasper Swatch has been firm on it’s a global agreement stance.

‘Timing for all the World Cup sites is in question’ said Kasper, adding that sites could expect to spend a minimum of $60,000 for timing, ‘and that is without data service’ he said.

The Austrians, however, say the FIS is taking too much and giving back to little when it comes to World Cup events.

‘We have to have money to finance the events’ Leistner says, adding that the FIS ‘takes 25 to 30 percent of the advertising share for their overall partners. We are the ones taking the risks’ he said.

‘We have global agreements in the other disciplines’ Kasper said, ‘which include the Austrians.

The timing controversy caught the United States by surprise as USSA thought the timing deal was done. ‘It is a big worry’ said Bill Marolt, President of USSA. ‘For us it will be an unbudgeted expense.’

Discussions are to continue but for the near term items like live timing, standings, and other data will not be available unless a compromise can be reached.

Sölden Report: Paerson wins, Koznick fourth, snow bumpy but solidThe FIS introduces blood tests for hormone

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