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Head CEO Eliasch Elected FIS President, Halston on Netflix
Eliasch to step back at Head, pledges to modernize race formats
Billionaire businessman Johan Eliasch was elected president of the International Ski Federation on June 4, pledging to re-energize competitive skiing with possible new race formats and more dynamic broadcasts.
Eliasch, the 25-year CEO of Head and an active environmentalist, was elected on the first ballot, with 65 of the 119 votes. In an online press conference, Eliasch told reporters “I think it shows the FIS family is ready for change. I always said, ‘If you want to keep things the way they are, I am not your candidate.’”
Each candidate made a 10-minute video presentation. Eliasch’s pitch included endorsements from Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal, both of whom raced on Head skis during their championship careers. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed Eliasch’s candidacy, noting his position on the immediate need to address climate change.
Eliasch, 59, was born in Sweden but has lived in London since joining the private-equity firm Tufton in 1985. From 1999 to 2010 he held a variety of environmental-stewardship positions in the British Government, under both Labour and Conservative prime ministers. He acquired Head out of near-bankruptcy in 1995, at age 33, made it profitable within two years and took it public in 2000. Eliasch holds a master’s degree in engineering and put 3 percent of Head’s revenue into research and development. To back up his climate activism, in 2005 he established the Rainforest Trust and bought 400,000 acres (162,000 hectares) of Amazon forest, along with the company logging that land. He halted logging and replanted.
Eliasch runs Head out of its London office, but pledged during his campaign to leave his Head role if elected. “I will step down as chief executive of Head,” he said during the press conference. “And if there are any decisions which have potential conflict of interest, I will of course recuse myself.” He declined to say if he would divest his financial position in Head, according to Associated Press reports. “If we have phenomenal success for FIS, it will benefit all stakeholders,” he added.
Just the fifth FIS president in its 97-year history, Eliasch succeeds Gian Franco Kasper, who held the office since 1998 and leaves one year early. The next FIS election is scheduled next year after Eliasch oversees a majority of the medal events at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022.
Rival candidates were former world downhill champion Urs Lehmann of Switzerland, former FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis of Britain (fired by Kasper last year) and FIS vice president Mats Årjes of Sweden, Kasper’s own choice. Lehmann and Årjes won elections for seats on the ruling FIS Council, which Eliasch will chair.
In his initial post-election news conference, Eliasch promised to give FIS’s 135 national associates more voice in decision-making and more opportunities to host events. He pledged to begin work “as soon as possible” on reviewing race formats. He also pledged to modernize FIS media policies by centralizing broadcast rights and expanding broadcasts across new media.
Halston on Netflix: How fashion came to the Olympics
The five-part Netflix series Halston, released in May, follows the American designer as he transforms his name into an international fashion empire. Not mentioned in the biopic is that Halston volunteered to create the U.S. Olympic Team uniforms for both the summer and winter games of Centennial Year 1976. That kicked televised Olympics into a fashion showcase: Levi Strauss signed up to do the uniforms in 1980 and 1984, and Ralph Lauren has done it every year since 2008—and will again for 2022 (in recent years Lauren has done suits for the opening and closing marches, while Nike has provided uniforms for medal ceremonies).
As the website Fashionista notes, the designers “imbued elements of national identity into their uniforms, projecting idealized American aesthetics intended to make an impact on the world stage at crucial moments in the nation’s history.”
It wasn’t always that way. The first international Olympic Games in 1896, in Athens, featured athletes wearing their own clothes or uniforms from their athletic clubs. At the first winter games, at Chamonix in 1924, American skaters wore white pants and sweaters with a stars-and-stripes shield on the chest. Thereafter the winter teams had uniforms composed variously of navy-blue warm-ups, white sweaters and pea coats.
Montgomery Ward produced Halston’s 1976 uniforms, without the official insignia, and sold the Olympic line in its catalog. Halston pocketed a percentage. The uniforms weren’t universally admired. “Opening Ceremony uniforms for the winter games included simple dark navy jackets with hoods worn with plain loose trousers, while podium outfits looked like simple leisure suits with turtleneck tops,” Fashionista reported. A letter in the New York Times called them a “disgrace to the team and affront to the nation.”
“Despite mixed reviews, Halston is definitely worth the binge,” Forbes reports. “It’s fun to travel back in time throughout the 1970s and ’80s.”
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