The upcoming FIS Congress is one of the most important in the recent history as it will feature the election of a new FIS president and FIS Council. Interest is high to join the leadership of FIS with four candidates running for president and more than 20 candidates running for the Council, including seven new candidates.

The four presidential candidates are former FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis, Swedish Olympic Committee President and FIS vice-president Mats Årjes, Switzerland’s former downhill world champion Urs Lehmann, and Swedish billionaire and HEAD CEO Johan Eliasch.

Confronting the next FIS leader will be the enormous challenge of overseeing delivery of more than half the events at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. Fifty-five of 109 sets of medals (50.5%) belong to the six FIS disciplines, with six new events across freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping, including three mixed gender team events.

On Friday, each presidential candidate will have the opportunity to give a 10-minute presentation to the General Assembly at the 52nd International Ski Congress, which will be held online due to COVID-19. Additionally, each new Council candidate will have the opportunity to give a five-minute presentation to the General Assembly.

The election of the FIS president will be held first, followed by the election of the 16 FIS Council members. Three of the presidential candidates, Mats Årjes, Johan Eliasch, and Urs Lehmann have also been nominated as Council candidates should they not be elected as president.

The FIS president and Council members are elected by the voting members of the FIS General Assembly, which is comprised of 135 national ski associations. Each nation holds between zero and three votes depending on their size.

An absolute majority of valid votes is required to elect the next FIS president, which means the winner must have 50% of the vote plus one. While there could be a winner in the first round, it appears mathematically unlikely to most observers with four candidates running. Each round, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated, and voting continues until one candidate receives an absolute majority.

Outgoing FIS President Gian Franco Kasper is stepping down after 43 years at FIS, first as secretary general, then as president. Fellow Swiss Marc Hodler, who held the post for 27 years, designated Kasper as his successor in 1998.

The twice-postponed election had been scheduled for an on-site Congress in Portoroz, Slovenia, before the FIS Council made a decision in April to hold it virtually, ensuring the health and safety of all parties.

The term length of all elected individuals extends until the 53rd FIS Congress, scheduled for late Spring 2022. Friday’s elections will be the first held virtually in the history of FIS.

In the run-up to the election, Ski Racing Media was pleased to interview all four candidates for FIS president. Our goal in these articles was to provide an outlet for the candidates to state their platforms while we review the history and credentials of each. 

Mats Årjes

Mats Årjes, who is running to succeed Gian-Franco Kasper as FIS president, concedes he doesn’t have all of the answers. The future success of FIS, he says, will ultimately be achieved through input and contributions from the varied national ski associations.

Årjes, the recently reelected Swedish National Olympic Committee (NOC) president, FIS vice president and FIS Council member, declared his candidacy on March 23.

If elected, he intends to remain in his role as Swedish NOC president while simultaneously leading FIS. 

“It’s not a matter of one person – you have to make sure you are creating a successful team and not only with the staff, but also representatives from all of the national ski associations, and also to get closer to suppliers and other stakeholders involved in our organization,” Årjes tells Ski Racing Media.

“It’s a matter of collaboration and you have to make sure that you are able to navigate and create a successful team for our sport,” he adds. … READ MORE

Johan Eliasch

Having developed close relationships with numerous top ski racers as the chief executive officer of the HEAD sporting goods group, Johan Eliasch believes he is the right candidate to evoke necessary change and has presented a robust plan to get there.

Swedish-born, but holding dual citizenship with the United Kingdom, Eliasch was nominated for the FIS presidency by GB Snowsport in March 2020. The 59-year-old billionaire businessman says it was not his intention to run for the ski federation’s leadership role until he was highly encouraged by “key insiders.”

“We are a fantastic sport, we are a lifestyle, we have so much potential, but we are a sleeping beauty,” said Eliasch, who is considered by many to be the biggest “change agent” in the field.

“I’m somebody with a lot of experience when it comes to turning companies around – you’ve seen that with HEAD. I see so much potential and I know that I can make it a success.”

Eliasch says the twice-postponed election has created time for him to cultivate stronger relationships with NSAs and, despite his business interests, he is motivated by passion for the sport. He says he is prepared to “start flying” on June 5, should he be elected. … READ MORE

Urs Lehmann

As part of his campaign for president of the International Ski Federation (FIS), Urs Lehmann hopes to bring the structure, value, and overall success he has built within the Swiss federation to the larger FIS family.

The Swiss alpine ski team has prospered, certainly in terms of on-snow results under Lehmann’s leadership, from winning consecutive nation cups, to individual achievements by top racers, such as Lara Gut-Behrami, Beat Feuz, Michelle Gisin, Corinne Suter and rising star Marco Odermatt, all of whom have made the ski-crazed nation tremendously proud. However, assessing his larger body of work since becoming president of the Swiss federation in 2006, Lehmann touts a strong record off the snow, as well. 

The former Swiss racer and 1993 downhill world champion has expanded the overall budget of the powerhouse ski federation from 26 million CHF to a staggering 60 million.

“Whatever we do, the athletes have to be the center at the top of our activities,” Lehmann tells Ski Racing Media. “Since everybody understood that, athletes are going better. If the athletes are going better, then the federation is getting better, the sponsors and suppliers are getting better and that’s how we’ve grown.” … READ MORE

Sarah Lewis

Having officially declared her candidacy for the FIS president on April 6, Sarah Lewis, the federation’s former secretary general, has presented her FIS “Piste Map” to numerous NSAs, outlining a strategic vision and plan for skiing’s future.

Lewis, who had worked at FIS for 26 years prior to her removal from that role in October, is currently on the outside looking in. But with more than a quarter-century of history from within the organization, she’s presumed by sources associated with FIS to be a status-quo candidate — at least compared to the other three candidates running. 

Her stated platform, however, suggests there is enormous untapped potential for the international federation and the sports that it governs to further expand worldwide.

“My vision is for us to transform FIS, of course, while celebrating and respecting its rich history and traditions, to become a global movement for world skiing and snowboarding,” Lewis tells Ski Racing Media. … READ MORE

The 52nd International Ski Congress will be open to the public to view on the FIS YouTube channel at the following link:

The FIS Congress is scheduled to start at 12 CET / 6 a.m. ET

This FIS press office contributed to this report.