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.