POSTED: February 13th 2011

Jean-Claude Killy: Why I am happy at last to get behind Annecy bid for 2018

Jean-Claude Killy is happy to match his name - and face - to the Annecy bid / lake images
Jean-Claude Killy is happy to match his name - and face - to the Annecy bid / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE in Geneva / Sports Features Communications

GENEVA: Jean-Claude Killy is right behind Annecy’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. This was not always the case. But now the triple Olympic skiing champion has left his colleagues on the International Olympic Committee in no doubt that he has awarded it his personal seal of approval.

This was a significant turn of events when the IOC’s evaluation commission checked out the Annecy bid last week. In a comprehensive interview, 69-year-old Killy revealed how he now views the bidding race with PyeongChang and Munich which concludes in Durban on July 6.

Q: What has changed for you as regards Annecy 2018?

JCK: We started very poorly and then last June, after we got a black eye from the IOC, we made a lot of changes, mostly geographical. We brought events closer to Annecy and put more focus on Chamonix. Now my feeling is good. Our government’s attitude has also improved because of the new clarity so we are back to normal.

Champions and former champions are heavily involved not only because of their names but because they are talented, competitive and experienced. All in all now it looks what it is: a nice bid, a credible bid. Annecy is back in the race.

Q: Do you think the changes may have come too late?

JCK: Annecy lost a lot of time: I don’t know what that may mean but I am fairly optimistic that it’s not a big problem because there are still five months in which to make the bid known, meet the right people tell them what’s going on today, our hopes and how we see things – such as accommodation, logistics, security and transportation.

For example, Geneva to Chamonix is about 35 minutes by rail and our public transport can carry 130,000 people a day. This reduces the environmental impact because it would exclude cars which is a very positive point.

Accommodation is not so easy we don’t have too many rooms in the Annecy region. That’s a problem, let’s face it. But we are addressing that – the contracts for two new hotels have just been signed off by the mayors. So there are pluses and minuses in all bids. We know our strong points and a couple of weaknesses.

In any case, there is no such thing as a perfect bid. I’ve been in the business 30 years and I know that.

I know also that the outcome is never certain because we all know how the IOC functions. We don’t know what the situation will be five months from now. There are no rules which say we should send the Games to developing and emerging countries. Sending the 2014 Winter Games to Sochi was a big gamble.

Q: You led the 2014 co-ordination commission so were you in favour of Sochi?

JCK: I was totally for it because Moscow to Japan is a 12-hour flight and in all that time and distance there are no ski runs or major hockey venues. So, since ice hockey is the No1 sport in Russia, choosing Sochi was smart. Let’s face it. Why not? One of the responsibilities of the IOC is to spread sport and have countries develop their sporting infrastructure so I was very satisfied.

Q: The impression is that you have only just seriously come on board with Annecy. Why is that?

JCK: Initially I was against it because, as a former organiser and head of co-ordination commissions for the last few Games, I knew the original bid was not workable. You cannot have 17 sites. It was politically orientated and you cannot please everyone that way. So it was necessary to step on a few toes . . . and we know how to do that.

Q: What changed?

JCK: The first big change came after last June 22 under Edgar Grospiron because that’s when the bid was whittled down. But Edgar was director general and that was a mistake; he should have been co-president. He resigned because he reasoned that there was not enough money available to present a good bid so he made his decision, which I respect. Now we have Charles Beigbeder as president who brings private sector expertise and that’s good.

Q: Was it important last week that Prime Minister Francois Fillon welcomed the commission and then President Sarkozy also hosted them?

JCK: Yes. It was important for France for people to have seen the Prime Minister and six or seven of his Ministers welcoming the evaluation commission. Then we had the lunch with the President and when you get guarantees from a state such as France you get guarantees! I’ve seen it. I was in charge of nine bids and I know how this system works. It’s a disaster if [political support] doesn’t happen. It will be there – heavily – when the IOC visits Korea and it will happen in Germany. So I was very, very happy to see the President here.

Q: What about the protesters and their complaints?

JCK: We have protests at every Games. The IOC commission met these people and one issue of concern was about protecting the environment. They wanted us to protect agricultural land - which we are doing because we know there is almost no agriculture left, so the answer was positive.

We must take good care of these people and their concerns. The IOC’s responsibility is enormous because the Games must give people pleasure and not grief.

Q: How do you balance all your time between your work on Sochi and Annecy?

JCK: I have to split my time very smartly. It is limited. I have my own business, I have Sochi ‘for fun’ and I will help Annecy as much as I can. I miss Edgar Grospiron – really, really miss him because he did a wonderful job. Guy Drut has a lot more time than me and is working with Havas, I guess. I’ll do as much as I can but I’m not under the supervision of Havas.

Q: The bid is presented as comprising two hubs: Annecy and Chamonix. But isn’t La Plagne - with the track for bobsleigh, toboggan and skeleton - really a third hub?

JCK: The real problem is the cost of a bobsleigh track. It’s $100m minimum today which is a lot of money for that sport. If it is a problem then that is compensated by the fact that we are saving money by making further use of the track from Albertville in 1992. So I’m really satisfied with using La Plagne. I think it’s really positive.

Q: But isn’t the Winter Games trend now towards big-city bids, such as Turin in 2006 and Vancouver last year?

JCK: I think we should remain flexible. If we could get these Games back to Lillehammer or Grenoble, for example, it would be terrific. They have  great Olympic heritage, like Chamonix.

Q: Wouldn’t it have been better, considering the heritage, for this to have been a Chamonix bid, rather than Annecy?

JCK: Maybe, in marketing terms. But we are bringing Chamonix forward more positively in marketing terms.

Q: What did you tell the evaluation commission?

JCK: Of course about the strength of the bid now. Also, I finished my address to the evaluation commission with some words about the region from Paul Cezanne. He said: “It is a temperate area; the surrounding hills are of reasonable height; the lake, narrowed at this spot by two gorges, seems to lend itself to the linear exercises of young ladies.”

I like that. After all, everything in France ends with a laugh.

Keywords · Annecy · 2018 Winter Olympics · IOC · Killy · Grospiron · Cezanne

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