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Interview with sarah lewis

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Interview with sarah lewis
A former member of the British Alpine Ski Team, Sarah Lewis joined FIS in 1994 as Continental Cup Coordinator for Alpine Skiing. She then became FIS Director before being appointed FIS Secretary General in 2000. Ms. Lewis is one of few females in a leading position at a major international Olympic sport federation.
In your 23 years with FIS you have seen the organisation develop and grow tremendously. What do you consider to be the three greatest changes during your tenure?
Many changes in the ski world have largely paralleled the societies’ evolution over the last 23 years. When I joined FIS in 1994 as Alpine Skiing Continental Cup Coordinator, the internet was a novelty, but we quickly embraced it and I was able to instantly transmit information electronically instead of relying on printers and fax machines. Over the years, FIS has used new technology to enhance its operations. The ability to reach the masses through social media has enabled us to reach audiences in places and with numbers that we could only dream about previously.
The information from the competitions that can now be generated by Longines, our official timing and data partner of Alpine Skiing, has brought a new level of insight into the performance of the athletes, which is an exciting evolution. We have seen through the FIS App, which was launched last year, that the level of engagement and interest is reaching new levels and we will continue to evolve this platform.
The advances in technology have also directly impacted the sport with the evolution of the athletes’ equipment, which has also directly impacted recreational skis. The quality of the slopes, hills and courses has also evolved to enable safer and fairer conditions for the athletes.
Finally the global expansion of FIS as an organisation and our activities has been highly significant. Today there are 129 member National Ski Associations and FIS employs 59 technical and administrative staff coming from five continents and 18 nations, to underline the international status of our organisation.
Concerning your position since you took over as Secretary General in 2000, how has your own personal role changed?
I’m sure there were more hours in the day and weeks in the year back then! My own role has evolved in many ways, both internally within the FIS administration and structure as we have built up our technical and administrative management team and externally through interaction with international organisations. This includes the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), IOC who has empowered the International Federations to lead the technical aspects of their sports at the Olympic Winter Games and in my role as Secretary General of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF) since 2014.
Thanks to the competence of the FIS technical staff who are managing the FIS World Cup series and working with the National Ski Associations, Organising Committees, FIS World Cup service providers and partners, FIS as an organisation and myself have been able to take further steps in new areas to develop the sport.
In terms of the future, what do you see as the three main challenges that FIS and skiing will need to tackle?
Youth participation and engagement (an issue faced by sport in general); generating resources to invest in the sport; and finding a balance within our disciplines ensuring that competitions are both exciting and attractive, and safe and fair. The list doesn't stop at these three; we also need to keep a strong focus on clean sport, dealing with the consequences of climate change, and the further development of digital media.
In the aftermath of recent scandals, the international sports movement is under increased scrutiny. What will be key in your view for the governance of sport to regain the public’s trust?
The scandals within various international and national sport organisations have affected the reputation of the entire sports movement. Participants and fans are also important stakeholders in sport and many have a keen interest in following the way their sport is run. Transparency and accountability are key factors for the organisations who have responsibilities in the governance of sport.
If you look back to the 2016/2017 ski season, what were your personal highlights?
The 2016/2017 season was very special for the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup which celebrated its 50th season and many Organisers staged anniversary events throughout the season. Longines, as the FIS Alpine Skiing Official Timing and Data Partner, commemorated this milestone with 50 pieces of a beautiful special edition watch. In February, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland were a great success, attracted full stadiums and millions of viewers all over the world. These were then followed by outstanding FIS Nordic World Ski Championships of Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined in Lahti, Finland and further south in Sierra Nevada, Spain the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Championships showcased the diverse and spectacular events in both these disciplines.
Looking forward, the next season is now just around the corner with Korea hosting its first major winter event. What do you expect from the 2018 Olympic season?
The Olympic Winter Games are always a major highlight of the four-year cycle and an important focus for the athletes and teams. It is a unique opportunity to promote the FIS disciplines to new audiences that are not following the sport week-in and week-out, but are tuned in to the Olympics. The PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee has prepared for these Games for many years having stood as a candidate three times, and we anticipate well organised Games.
FIS recently announced a new partnership with Alisports to develop 30 million Chinese ski fans into active participants in the sport by 2022 and the Beijing Games. What will it mean for FIS and skiing to have a growing audience and base in China?
FIS and the FIS Academy are developing a new programme called “Get Into Snow Sports – China” which aims to contribute to the overall Chinese Government objective of activating 300 million new participants into snow sports as part of the country’s development and legacy from the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. This is a truly unique opportunity to expand snow sports to an emerging market and increase the global footprint of the sport, which will also positively impact winter sports tourism and the ski industry in and outside China.
Youngsters today have many options for spending their free time. How is FIS helping to convince them that they should choose to do sports and in particular snow sports?
10 years ago, FIS launched the Bring Children to the Snow campaign designed to attract children and youngsters to snow sports. Since then, many million new participants have enjoyed, explored and experienced snow sports through the programme. It involves not only the existing structures within FIS of National Ski Associations and Organisers, but also the Winter Sports Industry, Resorts, Ski Schools and Tourism Organisations amongst other wider stakeholders who are all interested in attracting kids to snow sports.
On a personal note, how often do you manage to ski a year given your busy schedule?
I am at FIS Events and therefore on the snow every weekend during the season and during the FIS World Championships and Olympic Winter Games, but the time I have to actually ski is very limited, so I treasure these moments all the more.
Any other thoughts you would like to raise...
Yes, Longines is an outstanding partner of Alpine Skiing and FIS with a long, rich history that stretches back to the 1920s. We very much look forward to continuing to evolve our partnership and maximising the exciting opportunities with continually emerging technology to present and promote the sport and the strong values that Longines provides our sport throughout the future.
Longines marked the FIS Alpine World Cup 50th anniversary with a limited edition of The Longines Saint-Imier Collection.