A group of winter-sports athletes and the world’s biggest snowboard maker want the president of the International Ski Federation to resign after he spoke of “so-called climate change” and said he would rather deal with dictators than argue with environmentalists.
The climate advocacy group Protect Our Winters sent an open letter Friday urging 75-year-old Gian-Franco Kasper to step aside.
In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Kasper said “dictators can organize (big) events … without asking the people’s permission” and that “from the business side, I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I do not want to argue with environmentalists.”
He also referenced “so-called” climate change, and when challenged on that, responded, “We have snow, sometimes very much.”
Kasper pointed to frigid temperatures at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics. “To anyone shuddering toward me, I said: ‘Welcome to the global warming,'” he told the newspaper.
Kasper subsequently apologized for his comments, saying they were not meant to be taken literally.
When reached by The Associated Press via email, FIS officials said they had no further comment.
Protect Our Winters is a nonprofit formed in 2007 to combat climate change. Several dozen athletes — including U.S. Olympians Chloe Kim, Jessie Diggins and Ted Ligety — are part of the alliance, which also includes scientists and business leaders.
In their open letter, which also included a link for people to add their name to the call for Kasper’s resignation, POW said the Tages-Anzeiger story “confirms what insiders in FIS meetings have told us for years: that the leadership of the organization is unwilling to acknowledge scientific evidence that threatens the entire snow industry.”
We are appalled by recent statements by FIS president Gian Franco-Kasper denying human-caused climate change. The snowsports community should be demanding climate action, and not tolerate those who dismiss science to remain in positions of leadership.
— Protect Our Winters (@ProtectWinters) February 7, 2019
POW refers to studies that document the rapid decline of European glaciers and to economic analysis that shows seasons with below-average snowfall lead to “decreased value added” of more than $1 billion and 17,400 fewer jobs.
“When we saw that, from our perspective, it was unacceptable to have anyone in a position of leadership in the snow-sport industry denying climate change,” POW executive director Mario Molina told the AP.
POW also decided to not accept a $10,500 donation it was set to receive Sunday from U.S. Ski and Snowboard through its volunteers, coaches and athletes.
“As a sign of respect for them and the action they want to support, we are declining that donation and asking instead that Gian Franco Kasper be removed from his position,” the open letter said.
Snowboard maker Burton announced it would write a check to replace the U.S. Ski and Snowboard donation.
“You can’t be giving money to Protect Our Winters when the president of your federation is denying climate change and talking about how great it is to work with dictators because you don’t have to worry about protecting the environment,” Donna Burton told the AP, referencing the relationship between USSA and FIS. “It’s so blatant. He has to resign. It’s not OK.”
Kasper has been president of FIS since 1998. He also made headlines in 2005 for saying he didn’t think ski jumping was “appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.”
Kasper’s comments rekindled longstanding issues between the action sports community and FIS.
When snowboarding was brought into the Olympics in 1998, many of the sport’s leaders held out because they didn’t think the federation — with its base in Europe and with little background in snowboarding — had their best interest in mind.
“Somehow, these organizations lose sight of who they’re supposed to be advocating for, which is athletes,” Burton said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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