Back in January Terje Haakonsen wrote an open letter to the powers that oversee the qualification process for Olympic snowboarding. He concluded his thoughtful piece with a very simple statement: “The Olympic system for snowboarding is wrong; preserving the status quo is not an option”.
As it turns out, the International Olympic Committee don’t agree. Despite ongoing debate, galvanized by slopestyle’s inclusion in the 2014 Sochi games, there will be no significant changes to the qualification process.
The International Ski Federation (FIS – and yes, even after years of responsibility for Olympic snowboarding, that’s still their name) will once again oversee qualification in much the same way as they did for the Vancouver 2010 Games. All calls for the snowboarder-run TTR World Tour to be considered for the selection process have fallen on deaf ears. Indeed, the snowboarding ‘task force’ supposedly charged with investigating the options didn’t even get the chance to present its recommendations; instead, FIS jumped the gun and approached the IOC two months early – duly receiving official approval. Some are already calling it a political stitch-up.
The FIS were quick to point out that TTR events are often invitation-only, and therefore contrary to the spirit of the Olympics. While no-one would dispute that, what about the Burton Global Open series? The clue’s in the name – they are open to all. FIS also turns its nose up at any event that doesn’t satisfy the criteria of its 144-page long rulebook, and it’s unlikely that the TTR will be willing to adapt to such stringent requirements.
This decision probably won’t be the death knell for the TTR in the way that the halfpipe selection process was for the International Snowboard Federation, but it’s still a huge slap in the face for the organisation. While they have vastly superior experience in running slopestyle events (heck, FIS hadn’t even held a slopestyle contest until this year) they never proposed wrestling full control from the FIS. In his letter, Terje proposed a solution where both organisations can hold qualifying events, eliminating the problems of date conflict and an overcrowded event calendar. Despite this measured approach, all of his suggestions appear to have been ignored.
We’ll have more as we get reactions from riders, event organisers and fans alike; stay tuned. In the meantime, re-read Terje’s letter and see what the IOC passed up.
UPDATE: The TTR have just contacted us with a statement reacting to the news.
“The TTR is greatly disappointed by the recent decisions made by the FIS in their meetings in Korea regarding field size, quotas and the qualification process for Sochi 2014. These decisions were made on an accelerated timeline without taking into account the interests of athletes and the sport of snowboarding. Despite TTR making every effort to work with the FIS both within the Freestyle Snowboard Task Force and independently, the FIS remains unwilling to accept any input regarding the Olympics. TTR however, remains open to future discussion with the FIS and will continue to work toward having an impact on the 2014 Olympics.”