FIS Congress opens in Kangwonland

KANGWONLAND, Korea — The 48th International Ski Federation Congress is gathering for the first time in Asia, in the mountainous eastern region of the Republic of Korea where the 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be held for the first time in the Republic, specifically at Pyeongchang’s Alpenesia venue complex.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) has few challenging items on its agenda for the 48th gathering. The only visible issue appears to be a questioning of combining Olympic judges for both snowboard and slope style, thereby eliminating six judging positions. There is unanimity among the major participating national governing bodies that the decision is unfair to both disciplines. Accordingly key nations have boycotted the decision by withholding nominations to fill the judging positions. While a solution is expected, sadly the availability of beds at the sufferance of sport is driving the IOC directive to the FIS.

There will also be discussions regarding the still controversial but now accepted change in ski dimensions. While the FIS will not change their fiat, the FIS Council and management seem open to discussing reforming the process which led to the extremely unpopular ski decision. In reaching the ski dimension conclusions, the FIS did not include women or other constituencies in their deliberations, relying solely on an unscientific and closed process in reaching the conclusions. While the ski decision was met with jeers and uncomplimentary comments around the world, it was the complete lack of transparency in the process which most angered a number of influential national governing bodies and committee members.

Perhaps the most important action to be taken here will be the election of FIS council members. The election is expected to continue changing the demographic makeup of the ruling council body, in short continuing a generational transformation. Japan’s long-term council member, Yoshiro Ito, 86, is retiring after serving on the  council since 1969. Surprisingly, the Japanese Ski Federation is not putting up a replacement for Ito, perhaps opening the way for the Republic of China to take over the seat with their nominee, Xiaojuan Yan who is female and in her late 40’s.

In the council elections at the 47th Congress, held in Turkey, the Russian Ski Federation lost their long held seat and vice presidency which was not unexpected given alleged mis-dealing’s by council member Leonid Tyagachev. The Russian federation has nominated Andrey Bokarev to run for election. With the Russians hosting the 2014 Winter Games it is thought that he may regain the seat for the federation. Hungary, Poland and Italy, whose council member was suspended for alleged corrupt practices, also have named candidates for the council. Historically the Italian federation has always had a seat on the governing body and conventional wisdom would have an Italian elected to the council. 

The Congress is being held at a sprawling ultra-modern convention and casino resort, known as High 1, in the mountainous region of Kangwonland, four hours east of Seoul, the capital city of Korea and one of the largest in the world. The 2018 Olympic site, Pyeongchang, is an hour and a half away by car but as the crow flies not far from the Congress site. The region’s mountains resemble the Green and White Mountains of New England with top altitudes reaching to about 4500 feet.

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