International ski chief Gian Franco Kasper suggested this week that “everything is easier in dictatorships” in reference to the awarding of the 2022 Winter Olympics to China.
“Dictators can organize events such as this without asking the people's permission,” the 75-year-old honorary International Olympic Committee member told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.
“For us, everything is easier in dictatorships,” the International Ski Federation (FIS) president asserted. Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, beat Almaty in Kazakhstan for the right to host the 2022 edition, the first Winter Games to be held in China.
The ski chief cited business arguments for his case in response to a question about whether sports federations should take into account human rights abuses when collaborating with states.
“From the business side, I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I do not want to argue with environmentalists,” Kasper, who has been head of FIS since 1998, told Swiss daily Tagez-Anzeiger in the interview.
Kasper argued that sport can help bring about political change through engagement.
“The sport can also be a door opener, maybe we made a contribution to the opening of North Korea in Pyeongchang with the united Team Korea,” said Kasper.
A unified team from North Korea and South Korea has participated in past Olympic events in certain disciplines. At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a unified women's hockey team played as Korea under a unification flag.
The septuagenarian Swiss ski chief did however suggest there are red lines he would not cross.
“I do not want to go to a country, invest in skiing there, while the population starves. That's where I draw the red line. If Qatar applied tomorrow for the Olympics, then I am against (their proposal),” added Kasper.
Qatar, which will host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, has been criticized by human rights observers for the below standard working conditions of migrant workers building the tournament's infrastructure.
Kasper, no stranger to controversy, then turned to the question of global warming in the interview.
Taking a somewhat sceptical approach he recalled that the temperature plummeted to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) during the opening days of last year's Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
“To everyone who approached me shivering I said 'Welcome to global warming!'. There are always some winters that are cold and others warm,” he said.