Cogne 1984My first World Cup competition as a professional at the FIS Headquarters.
The official FIS World Cup in Cross-Country Skiing began in the season 1981/82 after a lot of discussion.
Above all the Scandinavians and the Russians were no friends of the World Cup and competitions outside of their own country. For your information the FIS Alpine World Cup already started in 1967.
I began my work with FIS in 1984 and before I left Sweden I asked the Folksam Director, who gave a lot of support to the Swedish Ski Association if his company was interested to be the main sponsor of the FIS World Cup for the upcoming season. He was interested and I organized a meeting with him, Marc Hodler and Gian Franco Kasper at the FIS Headquarters.
After a while, the negotiations led to a signing in Stockholm. Folksam put in two officials to the circus. Åke Fredriksson, a former Swedish head coach and Ulf Gustavsson as the internal manager.
The team was completed by legendary Werner Kirchhofer as Chief of Press. You must also know that there was one men's tour and one women's tour and only in Scandinavia and Russia these two tours came together.
In reality we had no Jürg Capol, no Markus Schutti, no Sandra Spitz and no professional TDs, no cellular phones, no computers, no emails but we had telex. We were pure amateurs and we for example had no agreements between the organizers, the National Ski Associations and FIS.
The season 1984/85 was also dominated by the question of to skate or not to skate.
Let's move on to the opening. The first competition for the men should be in the French Jura, les Rousses, with the legendary Marc Dole as Chief. There was no snow, and no substitute resort. On December 3rd I met Marc Dole and TD Christian Egli in Vevey (SUI) and in the meantime I had received a report from Franco Nones that there was snow in Valle d´Aosta in Italy. Marc Dole wanted that the decision should be taken later given all the preparations but I told him that I wanted to go to Italy for inspection and I was no longer a friend of Marc Dole when we split.
Already on the pass of St Bernhard I could see the snow, but was it sufficient?
The Italians wanted to organize the competitions and offered two possible resorts: Brusson at 1300 m osl and Cogne at 1550 m osl.
In the evening we started to discuss the financial realities. The organizer in Les Rousses had invited 16 nations with 5 athletes each, with travel and accommodation for a budget of about 40'000 CHF. The Aosta representatives agreed to take over these costs. All the discussions were held in French which I had learnt in school----OK that is another story.
At six o´clock the next morning we started for Brusson with the Chief of Competition, the former skier belonging to Bengt Herman Nilsson‘s team, Gian Franco Stella, and he could only speak Italian.
But we understood each other very well. In Brusson, it was warm and the ground was not frozen - no chance. We left for the next alternative, Cogne, about 80 km away.
The valley up to Cogne was narrow, dark and inhospitable, and we did not see any snow at all.
But suddenly the valley opened and !!!!!!! the snow was there, the skiers were on the tracks and the situation was unbelievable.
I did a fast check to see if the snow was frozen - YES. But the tracks? No problem said the chief of course and he showed me the drawings approved by the Italian Ski Federation (FISI) with a total climb of 461m.
I contacted Christian Egli, the TD, Paavo Petäjä, Chairman of the World Cup Committee, Ivan Formo Chairman of the Cross-Country Committee and, at last, my real boss Gian Franco Kasper by phone. Gian Franco Kasper later told me that he never had heard me so exaggerated and he said if the TD agrees, you are allowed to move the competition from France to Italy.
A few hours later Christian Egli came and we could start the work by forming a race committee. We did it with help of enthusiastic Italian officials and the only problem was that everyone wanted to be selected for every position. Late at night I left for Bern and Mt Blanc had never been so beautiful in moonlight.
The organizers did it and the Mayor himself, Mr Osvald Ruffier, helped us personally. He was driving around in a small car with microphones and told the people in the local language - patois - to take the shovels and help bring snow in the tracks. 6000 persons came to this isolated village which forced the Mayor on competition day to drive around and ask the inhabitants to go to the tracks and protect them from the spectators.
The only problem we had was that the hotels do not open until Christmas normally and therefore they were not warm enough.
Afterwards I was very happy, the new sponsor Folksam was more than happy and if you meet the top three of the competition, Mikkelsplass NOR, Härkönen FIN and Svan SWE , you can ask them for their opinion.
Contributed by: Bengt-Erik Bengtsson