A decision on what format the International Ski Federation (FIS) will hold its Congress in Portorož in Slovenia in June is set to be the main topic of the organisation’s Council meeting tomorrow with some countries growing concerned that an in-person event could prevent them from fully participating.
The Congress, currently scheduled to be held on June 5, is one of the most important in the history of the FIS as it will elect what will be only the fifth President of the world governing body in its 97-year history.
This will be the third occasion that FIS have tried to hold the election to seek a successor to Switzerland’s Gian-Franco Kasper, who has led the body for 23 years, after the Congress was postponed twice last year because of the coronavirus.
The International Olympic Committee and FIFA are among several organisations who have elected to hold their annual meetings online to reduce the risks of delegates travelling to attend them.
But there is a strong movement within the ruling FIS Council that because the meeting is so important, it should take place in a physical form, even though Europe is still in the grip of the pandemic.
The fear is that this will drastically limit attendance to a small number of delegates from Europe, with whom the sport’s power has always laid, leaving delegates from many of the other 75 countries that make up FIS membership out in the cold.
From tomorrow, an 11-day circuit breaker lockdown is being introduced in Slovenia in a bid to curb rising coronavirus cases in the country.
Schools and non-essential shops will be closed as part of what Prime Minister Janez Janša has described as "a brief suspension of public life."
There are so far three nominations to replace the 77-year-old Kasper, who was re-elected in 2018 and is currently serving a four-year term, which his successor is due to complete.
Among the candidates is Urs Lehmann, a former men’s world downhill champion, who has been nominated by Swiss-Ski.
If he is elected it will extend Switzerland’s remarkable control over FIS, which extends back to 1951 when Marc Hodler took over as President, a position he held until 1998 when he was succeeded by Kasper.
The other two candidates are both Swedish, who will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of countryman Ivar Holmquist, the founding President of FIS in 1924 and who held the position for 10 years.
Billionaire Johan Eliasch, the chairman and chief executive of ski manufacturer Head, was nominated by GB Snowsport last year.
Swedish Olympic Committee President and FIS vice-president Mats Årjes has been nominated by the Swedish Ski Association, which he headed for a decade until 2018.
Briton Sarah Lewis, who had been FIS secretary general for 20 years, had been considered a serious contender for the position before being abruptly removed from the office in October.
Her intentions remain unknown but if she were to stand it could offer an interesting dynamic to the race.
Besides deciding on the Congress, the FIS Council are also expected to officially re-allocate the 2024 Ski Flying World Championships and the 2025 Freestyle Snowboard World Championships.
The 2024 Ski Flying World Championships were originally awarded to Harrachov in the Czech Republic, but they have withdrawn due to problems with infrastructure.
Kulm in Austria has offered to step in as a replacement.
Swiss-Ski has applied to host the 2025 edition of the FIS Freestyle Ski, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships, to be staged in the Engadine region at various resorts.
They will replace Krasnoyarsk in Russia, who have lost the right to host the Championships following the Court of Arbitration for Sport verdict in the case between the World Anti-Doping Agency and Russian Anti-Doping Agency that no Russian venue is permitted to host World Championships through 2025.