After making controversial comments about climate change, the benefits of dictatorships, and the alleged negative effects of immigration on winter sports, FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper incensed Protect Our Winters (POW) and a group of winter-sports athletes currently competing in the FIS World Ski Championships in Åre, Sweden.
The 75-year-old Kasper, who has been president of FIS—the highest governing body of winter sports—since 1998 and has also served as a member of the International Olympic Committee, sparked outrage over the comments he made in an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, in which he made light of “so-called” climate change.
When pressed on his views on the issue by the Swiss paper, Kasper referred to the freezing temperatures at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics to disprove climate change: “To everyone who approached me shivering, I said ‘Welcome to global warming!’ There are always some winters that are cold and others warm.”
“We, the members of the outdoor and snowsports communities, are appalled by recent statements by FIS president Kasper denying human-caused climate change,” POW wrote in its open letter demanding Kasper’s immediate resignation.
Kasper also told Tages-Anzeiger that it was easier to work with dictatorships in organizing major sporting competitions, such as the Olympics, because “dictators can organize events such as this without asking people’s permission.”
“From the business side, I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I do not want to argue with environmentalists,” Kasper told the Swiss paper.
He went on to lament the decline of winter sports in his home country of Switzerland and attributed it to “the second generation of immigrants [who have] nothing to do with skiing. There are no ski camps anymore.”
Kasper’s controversial comments surface as the FIS World Skiing Championships are taking place in Åre, Sweden. A number of FIS athletes competing in Åre have criticized Kasper’s comments and joined the call for his resignation. Among them is Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, making his final professional racing appearances at the World Championships before entering retirement.
“Sometimes people say something that is so stupid that you don’t have to comment on it, because everyone with a pulse on this planet understands that is complete gibberish,” Svindal said.
On Wednesday, FIS released a statement from Kasper apologizing for his remarks.
“First and foremost, I would like to apologize as these comments were not meant to be taken literally but this was not clear in the final story. I take full responsibility for this misunderstanding and am sorry it has taken attention away from our athletes competing in the FIS World Championships.”
However, POW continues to urge for his resignation.
“The reporting 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, let alone act on it,” POW wrote in its open letter. “The snowsports community is professional, evidence-based, and intent on thriving. But to do that, we cannot be led by science deniers from a previous century.”
Read the full open letter here.