Recently the FIS made a decision not allowing TTR events to count in Olympic qualifying. This is stupid, on so many levels I can’t even count them all. But just for fun, as we often do on Streetjesus let’s give it an honest try. For starters, the idea behind the Olympics is to have the best athletes in the world competing against each other in there respected disciplines. The original format only included amateur athletes but was then opened up to allow for better competition appealing to a broader viewing audience.
More recently the IOC (International Olympic Committee) began adding sports like BMX in the summer and snowboarding in the winter to better demonstrate the new games that are being contested by the youth of our modern world. This past year the decision came down to allow freestyle skiing and snowboarding into the games in the form of Halfpipe and Slopestyle events. In theory this is awesome, because it gives our sports a voice and will allow them to be seen by an audience who wouldn’t otherwise know they exist.
But theory and reality are two vastly different things, and the ideals of the athletes and organizers of these sports as they compare to the realities being set forth by it’s governing bodies are even more drastic. The reasons why are plentiful and the arguments about each of them are heated and ongoing, so let’s get in the mix.
For starters the qualifying process for the games is so wrong it’s like going to Canadian Tire for your snowboard setup and calling it legitimate because you can also buy gear for other sports there like hockey, soccer and basketball; all of which are also Olympic sports. The problem lies in the fact that the system under which the freestyle sports operate already have an amazing network of events in place that consists of not just the TTR schedule, but the X Games, Dew Tour, and countless other events around the globe that the best athletes flock to for reasons like prize money, recognition, sponsor commitments and course layouts. These sports were created from a different mold than other games, and need to be treated as such. They are not run of the mill sports in their nature, the way they are played or the way they are scheduled. What the FIS has done is told riders that they need to abandon preexisting events and instead ride in the sanctioned events that the FIS will be putting on in order to qualify for the Russia games.
If you are a hockey player, you do not qualify to play for your country by solely playing in IIHF games, far more emphasis is put on club team play in the NHL domestically and elite leagues through the world. Similarly, the NBA is the main contributor to North American based players in the Olympics, who almost never play in FIBA events during the year.
My point is why, if there is a perfectly good, preexisting “league” in place, do you require these riders to go out of there way and qualify via your sub-par events. I can confidently call them sub-par for many reasons, let’s talk about a big one. The FIS has NO IDEA what they are doing when it comes to freestyle events, partly because they have never had to govern them before, but possibly more so because they have their hands full with so many other winter sports that freestyle skiing and snowboarding are nothing more than a blip on their radar. The athlete support isn’t there, as these contests have no prize money, or coverage in any type of worthwhile media, and this is the ONLY way these athletes make money. Add to that the course layout at most of the events could be better done by a blind monkey with an ice pick and you have a recipe for disaster.
The athletes want no part in the games if this is how you have to get there. But don’t take my word for it, take theirs:
Seb Toots : “There are already so many events, between the Dew Tour, the X Games, the FIS, and the TTR — it’s impossible to compete in them all. If you have to choose, you choose TTR. No one wants to compete FIS.”*
Chas Guldemond : “If the Olympics are supposed to be the pinnacle event, then why aren’t the pinnacle events leading up to it going to be recognized as the qualifying events, instead of some bunk-a– FIS events that nobody cares about? It’s ridiculous.”*
Terje Haakonsen : “The most amazing thing about the whole situation is that snowboarders are dependent on a European ski organization to decide how our sport should be run. Snowboarding is an American board sport and not European skiing. Until we are in control, it will never be right.
The only good thing about this Olympic noise is that more young riders understand how incredibly arrogant politicians in the FIS are. Snowboarding will never be first priority for the FIS. Instead, alpine skiing, ski jumping and cross country fight for first place. Even the combination of two of those sports gets greater priority inside FIS than Snowboarding.
FIS is unique in international sports. I know of no other association that organizes more than one sport. Football is football, hockey is hockey, baseball is baseball, biathlon is biathlon. FIS has five different sports! There is always competition for priority within the FIS. The best skiers have threatened to create their own series several times, and it is not because they are satisfied with the way FIS runs things.
I would think that it would be good for the IOC also if the FIS had less sports to oversee, because now the FIS has too much power in the Olympics. But when the FIS president is a part of the IOC (Gian-Franco Kasper sits on the IOC commission in charge of Olympic broadcasting) there will never be any changes.
It irritates the FIS leaders that biathlon crushes their sports in television ratings in Europe. But why is biathlon Europe’s most popular winter sport on TV? Because it has its own association and guides the development of the sport itself. They only have to focus on one thing, one sport. They get up every day and think about how they can make the product better for athletes and fans.
Does anyone think that Sverre Seeberg and the other heads of the FIS council ever give snowboarding a thought No, they only think about snowboarding when they are forced to do so for political reasons — like right now, when all the snowboarding world will have an answer to the Olympic issue. We knew of course that they were going to say no because they protect their own monopoly. IOC and FIS are NOT non-profit organizations. They travel around the world treated like royals, and how they run things is a mystery since they do everything behind closed doors. They should be helping people around the world to get active in sports, but they are just big middle men that take for their own benefit and power.”**
So, basically my hope is this, and I can only image what would happen if it plays out. I wish every top level snowboarder in the world would do what Terje did in 1998 and say forget it to the Olympics and their bastardized version of our sport. Forget it all together.
If the way in which you got there is wrong, and the athletes who chose to go aren’t the best in the world, then what is the point of winning anyway? The only thing these Olympic champions will be remembered for is winning that contest that no one showed up to.
* – source: ESPN
** – source: Snowboarder Magazine