Gian-Franco Kasper - FIS chief

Passing Date

Gian Franco Kasper, who served 23 years as secretary general and 23 years as president of the International Ski Federation (FIS), died on July 9, after a short illness, and just one month after retiring. He was 77 years old.

Kasper was born in St. Moritz, where primary education was (and still is) given in the local language, Romansh. He earned degrees in journalism, philosophy and psychology at the University of Zurich, then edited the St. Moritz Kurier newspaper, and promoted St. Moritz tourism, until joining FIS as secretary general in 1975. In 1998 he succeeded Marc Hodler as FIS president. He was a member of the International Olympic Committee from 2000 to 2018, and of the executive committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency from 2003 to 2016.

As a former journalist, Kasper always had time to talk with reporters. He gave colorful interviews, with a quick and often sardonic wit in at least five languages. That sense of humor, endearing to his many friends, often got him in trouble when off-hand remarks were quoted in the press. He noted on more than one occasion that authoritarian governments build event venues more quickly than elected governments can, and had to walk the comments back. “That was not meant to be taken literally,” he once said. On another occasion he said “I’ve learned not to joke.” But he never really did.

On Kasper’s watch, with the addition of freestyle and snowboarding, FIS-sanctioned competition (not including biathlon) grew from 16 events at the 1976 Olympics to 33 in 1998 and 50 in 2018 (with the addition of some women’s and mixed-team events, it will be 55 in 2022). Athletes and coaches have criticized the number of Alpine World Cup events, which grew from 53 in 1975 to 83 in the Covid19-shortened 2020 season. The 2022 calendar lists 90 events, including the Beijing Olympics. “I know it’s not easy for the athletes and also for some organizers,” Kasper said in October, 2019. “We are now at a certain limit, there is no question. But FIS is not here to prevent races but to organize races.” 

Kasper was admitted to hospital a few days before the June 4 FIS meeting that elected Johan Eliasch as his successor.