GENEVA ( Associated Press) — Re-elected to lead skiing and snowboarding through the 2026 Olympics, Johann Eliasch believes his mandate for change stems from a push from conservatives.
Eliash was unopposed on the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) ballot, but some in the room and online for the election gathering in Milan challenged the voting rules and some delegates walked out.
The billionaire owner of sportswear brand Head was selected in a contest for the first time last year. Elias promised to change the format and presentation of the race, and to house the commercial rights to allow the FIS to gain more control and revenue.
Adhering to those policies with a forged leadership style in business sparked protests on Thursday from Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Croatia – all World Cup organizers reluctant to give up marketing control of their events or their slots on future race calendars.
He left no doubt this week that it’s not his choice.
Asked whether any ill-will toward him would continue, Eliash took a long pause in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
“I think everyone knows that standing in the way of change will be bad for them,” he said. “We’ll get through this.”
His victory again showed how the few nations dominating the playing field in Olympic sport politics can be outdone by widespread support elsewhere.
“I was elected FIS president with a clear mandate for the transformation, in which FIS should be a union for all of our members,” Eliash said, referring to a term often used by FIFA’s leaders in football. echo.
Soccer bodies also rely on a centralized marketing model that Eliash wants for FIS. He also praises the packaging of Formula One.
Eliasch likens F1 to the skiing dynamics of athletes guided by team headmasters and relying on technicians, and relies on his longtime former boss Bernie Ecclestone for advice.
“We need a television show like ‘Drive to Survive,'” Eliash said of the Netflix hit that takes viewers behind the scenes of F1. “We can’t do that because we don’t have (broadcast) rights.”
The court battle with the Swiss agency Infront, FIS’s partner in a joint venture since 2009, has marked Eliasch’s first year in office. The decisions so far have gone according to them.
Eliash said the FIS is cash-rich enough to offer member unions a “cast-iron guarantee” that matches its existing deals with Infront: “We can return it any day of the week. “
Now comes the diplomacy of consulting with the World Cup-organizing federations in the skiing, freestyle and snowboard disciplines “to figure out how we’re going to do it together,” Eliash said. “The longer we wait, the more we miss.”
Next winter’s World Cup season is safe, he insisted, and will soon be showcasing a new idea in an iconic alpine location on 29 October.
A cross-border downhill course for men and women overlooking the Matterhorn mountain peak will begin in Switzerland and end in Italy. The race, which will start this year instead of 2023, is seen as a signature victory for the president.
Another is moving the Alpine World Cup back to the prime late-season as well as North America in the traditional two-week swing after Thanksgiving in late November. Palisades Tahoe will host the men’s race on February 25-26 and Aspen a week later.
Persuading the International Olympic Committee to jointly add Nordic women’s at the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Games could be a formidable challenge. This is the last hurdle to a fully gender-balanced Olympics.
Proposing to the IOC is something FIS representatives can agree on this week.
“I find that people who don’t like me also want a good product,” Eliash said. “So there’s no dispute there.”
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