Johan Eliasch, re-elected to lead skiing and snowboarding through the 2026 Olympics, believes his mandate for change trumps opposition from traditionalists.
Eliasch had no dissenting vote in the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) election, but some in the room and online for the Milan election assembly questioned the voting rules and some delegates walked out.
The billionaire owner of sportswear brand Head was elected in a competition for the first time last year. Eliasch promised to change the race formats and presentations and pledged to bring the commercial rights in-house to give FIS more control and revenue.
They made it very clear this week that he is not their choice.
When asked if resentment persisted, Eliasch paused for a long time in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
“I think everyone knows that if you see him standing in the way of change, it would be bad for him,” he said. “We’ll get through this.”
His win showed once again how in Olympic sports politics, a few nations that dominate on the pitch can be overruled by broad support elsewhere.
Football associations also rely on a centralized marketing model that Eliasch wants for the FIS. He also admires the packaging of Formula 1.
Eliasch likens F1 to the dynamics of skiers run by team bosses and relying on technicians, and looks to his longtime former boss Bernie Ecclestone for advice.
“We need a TV show like ‘Drive to Survive,'” Eliasch said of the Netflix hit, which takes viewers behind the scenes of F1. “We can’t because we don’t have it [broadcast] Right.”
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Legal disputes with the Swiss agency Infront, which has been a partner of FIS in a joint venture since 2009, characterize Eliasch’s first year in office. The verdicts have gone his way so far.
Eliasch said the FIS was rich enough to give affiliates “cast-iron guarantees” to match their current deals with Infront: “We can back it up any day of the week.”
Now comes the diplomacy of consulting with associations that organize world cups in the disciplines of skiing, freestyle and snowboarding, “to find out how we’re going to do it together,” said Eliasch. “The longer we wait, the more we miss.”
The FIS takes over the management of Para Snowsports
The FIS also announced that the organization would take over the management of Para Snowsports from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
According to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation, more information will be announced at a later date after the FIS and IPC have discussed the details and timing of the transfer of governance.
“It’s the sport you [FIS] know better than anyone else in the world,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons. “So we believe this is the moment to take it a step further.”
Overlooked by the peak of the Matterhorn, a cross-border downhill course for men and women starts in Switzerland and ends in Italy. That the races will debut this year instead of 2023 is seen as a signature win for the President.
Another brings the Alpine World Cup back to North America in its best postseason, as well as the traditional two-week swing after Thanksgiving in late November. Palisades Tahoe will host men’s racing on February 25-26 and Aspen a week later.
A bigger challenge could be convincing the International Olympic Committee to add women’s Nordic combined to the 2026 games in Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo. It is the final obstacle to a fully gender-balanced Olympiad.
Making the proposal to the IOC is one thing that FIS delegates could agree on this week.
“I think that even the people who don’t like me want a great product,” said Eliasch. “So there is no dispute.”