Proposal Sends Ski Pipe to IOC for Possible Olympic Inclusion

Antalya, Turkey – A U.S. and French proposal to submit ski halfpipe to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for consideration as early as 2014 was approved without dissent as the International Ski Federation concluded its biennial FIS Congress Friday in Antalya, Turkey. The Congress also unanimously passed proposals from the U.S.A. and other nations to accept both snowboarding slopestyle and team snowboardcross into the FIS World Snowboard Championships, recognized a Maine ski club for getting kids into snowsports, and elected a new FIS Council.n

Ski halfpipe, snowboarding slopestyle and team snowboardcross recommended for 2014 Olympics

Now that the FIS has approved the proposal to recommend the new ski and snowboard events to the IOC, the Olympic Committee could make a decision on their inclusion for the 2014 Games as early as 2011.

“As a member association, we’re proud of the reputation that FIS has developed as a progressive and dynamic international sports federation, particularly in terms of the events and sports it provides to the Olympic Games,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Vice President, Luke Bodensteiner in his presentation to the Congress. “By aggressively developing new and dynamic action sports into its program, FIS is leading from a position that is relevant to youth and the worldwide public. That provides value to our stakeholders and our partners.”

Ski halfpipe has been included in FIS World Championships since 2005 and is already on the program for the 2012 Youth Olympics in Innsbruck.

“Ski halfpipe is strongly supported by the ski industry as an opportunity to develop additional, relevant connection points for FIS competitions,” said Bodensteiner. “And it’s an opportunity to derive value from sponsors and television who crave innovative events with strong youth appeal.”

“We have a number of extremely strong and competitive halfpipe skiers in this country who have repeatedly excelled in competition, both in FIS World Cups and on the pro-circuit,” adds Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association. “We know that it is a lifelong dream for these athletes to have the opportunity to compete on the world stage at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014. We are working along with our FIS partners to help make this happen.”

There was also unanimous support for snowboarding slopestyle and team snowboardcross with acceptance into the FIS World Championships by a host of proposals from the U.S.A., Canada and New Zealand.

“Snowboard slopestyle is a great opportunity for both the large and many small areas around the world to activate around terrain parks which are prevalent, easy to develop and easily capable of hosting training and competition,” said Bodensteiner.

While Olympic consideration was not a part of the formal proposal, advocates encouraged the FIS to also look forward and consider it as a potential future event. “It’s a great opportunity for the FIS to seize the moment and subsequently recommend this sport for inclusion in the Olympic Winter Games beginning in 2014,” added Bodensteiner in his Congress presentation.

Team snowboardcross is a format that has already been tested successfully on the World Cup and proven to be well received by the public and athletes.

“With successful team events in nordic and now in alpine skiing, there’s tremendous opportunity to add a team event into snowboarding,” said Bodensteiner. “A nation’s event will bring a fantastic new element to the typically individual competitions of snowboarding.”

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The FIS is already submitting both an alpine team event and women’s ski jumping again to the IOC for 2014 consideration, both approved in past meetings.

Maine ski club honored

The FIS at its Congress also honored the Maine Winter Sports Center with second place in its global FIS SnowKidz Awards. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association club is responsible for introducing as many as 5,000 new participants to nordic skiing each year. Norway’s Barnas Skiklubb was awarded with first place, while Schnee kinderleicht – Bewegtes Land in Germany took third.

“The aim of the FIS SnowKidz program is to bring children to the snow,” said Maine Winter Sports Center Vice President and Program Director Eilleen Carey, who was in Antalya to accept the award. “Healthy Hometowns aims to do just that through our school visits where we bring equipment to schools and towns and give them ski lessons.”

The longstanding program is popular across Maine and has become a catalyst for the sport. “It’s unbelievable and very rewarding to be a part of this program,” said Carey. “We want to catapult the next generation into leading healthier lifestyles and we’re doing that.”

The eight finalist programs were showcased in a FIS Congress display during the week, providing the more than 1,000 delegates from 74 nations a chance to learn more from the best practices of the award winning programs.

In addition to the 5,000 Swiss francs awarded to each of the eight finalists, the Maine program was presented another 8,000 Swiss francs for second.

“This was an outstanding program for the FIS to recognize best practices in getting kids onto the snow,” said Bodensteiner. “We’re honored to have the Maine Winter Sports Center recognized as one of the top three FIS SnowKidz programs in the world and hope it will encourage other USSA clubs to develop innovative ways to spread the word about our healthful, lifelong sports.”

Olympic developments

Memories of the recent Vancouver Olympic Winter Games were rekindled with Organizing Committee (VANOC) Sport Director Tim Gayda’s final report. Gayda, who led as its single sport director for a decade, proudly talked about how the Olympics introduced sport to an entire new generation of fans. He acknowledged the tremendous support of the FIS, both at the staff level and for the sport technical volunteers, for creating such a successful Games.

Sochi Sport Director Dennis Polyakov outlined both accomplishments and challenges for the 2014 Olympic organizers. Polyakov reported that construction is on schedule for the cross country and biathlon venue at Psekhako Ridge, with a projected October 2011 completion. Courses were finalized last year at the alpine venue of Rosa Khutor, with snowmaking a primary objective this summer. The first major event on the venue will be a Europa Cup next February. The ski jumping and nordic combined venue is still in the development phase but scheduled to be finished in December 2011. The design direction includes a common finish area for jumping and combined cross country.

Polyakov indicated that geological challenges have hampered development of the freestyle skiing and snowboarding venues. Sochi organizers are presently working with the FIS on solutions and still hopeful for an October 2011 timeframe.

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Two athlete villages are planned at the Sochi 2014 mountain venues. The Rosa Khutor Village is just 3 km from alpine, freestyle and snowboarding venues, and 12 km from jumping and nordic combined. The Psekhako Athlete Village is located at the cross country venue.

Other events, some new

Utah’s Deer Valley Resort was also on hand to present a progress report for the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships.

In a first look at the 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, CEO Peter Bayer gave an overview of the new event. The Youth Games will feature alpine events of super G, giant slalom, slalom, combined and a team event in Patscherkofel, near the site of some of the 1976 Olympic courses. Cross country, nordic combined, men’s and women’s ski jumping and biathlon will be held on the Olympic venues in Seefeld. Slopestyle and ski cross are planned at Kuhtai, while both snowboard and ski halfpipe plus moguls are on the program at Nordpark in Innsbruck.

The Games will be open to athletes born in 1995 or 1996. Selection criteria will be announced later this year.

A multi-stage competition in cross country skiing, similar to the annual FIS Tour de Ski, was accepted to be carried out as a World Championship, to take place every four years. The first event could take place in 2012, if it can be organized in time, or in 2016. The FIS Tour de Ski has been a popular stage event in early January in Central Europe that has grown significant attention for cross country skiing.

FIS Council elected

In the election of the 17-member FIS Council, a significant number of seats changed in name or nation. USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt was re-elected to a two-year term. FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper of Switzerland was renamed to his post for a fourth four-year term from 2010-2014 by acclamation. He was first elected to the position in 1998. Of the remaining 16 seats, eight changed in the election.

“I thank you for this confidence, I promise to do my best for the sport during the next four years,” Kasper said, before adding, “Whether that will be good enough is for others to judge.”

The FIS Council for the upcoming two-year period, 2010-2012, is as follows:

  • Patrick Smith (CAN), 116 votes
  • Giovanni Morzenti (ITA), 111 votes
  • Sverre Seeberg (RUS), 110 votes
  • Mats Arjes (SWE), 109 votes (new)
  • Michel Vion (FRA), 109 votes (new)
  • Bill Marolt (USA), 108 votes
  • Alfons Hörmann (GER), 107 votes (new)
  • Yoshiro Ito (JPN), 104 votes
  • Janez Kocijancic (SLO), 99 votes
  • Sung Won Lee (KOR), 91 votes
  • Peter Schröcksnadel (AUT), 90 votes (new)
  • Matti Sundberg (FIN), 89 votes (new)
  • Eduardo Roldan (SPA), 87 votes
  • Vedran Pavlek (CRO), 81 votes (new)
  • Roman Kumpost (CZE), 75 votes (new)
  • Dean Gosper (AUS), 72 votes* (new; First round tie requiring 2nd ballot; 64 in 2nd ballot)

The maximum number of votes available was 121 in the first round, and 119 in the second.

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