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What is it with old guys and climate change? In the wake of recent dumbfounding comments rejecting global warming by International Ski Federation President Gian Franco Kasper, 75, and U.S. President Donald Trump, 72, one has to wonder if their own looming mortality makes them simply not care what kind of planet they leave behind for the rest of us … or our kids.
Kasper’s comments in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger earlier this week also make it clear he agrees with my 2014 assertion that “Democracy and the Olympics don’t mix.”
Here’s how Kasper, a former member of the International Olympic Committee, put it: “Dictators can organize [big] events … without asking the people’s permission,” and, “from the business side, I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I do not want to argue with environmentalists.”
Then, according to the Guardian, he added this addled take on climate change:
“We have snow, sometimes even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the [2018 Winter] Olympiad. We had -35C [-31 Fahrenheit]. Everybody who came up to me shivering I greeted with, ‘Welcome to global warming’.” He went on to blame immigrants for the decline in skiing in his native Switzerland, which Trump probably hasn’t thought of yet but will no doubt soon be his reason for golf’s steady decline in the U.S.
Kasper’s ridiculous statements about global warming – ignoring the science of steadily rising temperatures and melting glaciers in the Alps – echo Trump’s tweet just last month during he polar vortex that hit the Midwest.
“In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!”
Vail native and former state Sen. Mike Johnston, 44, addressed that statement during his recent announcement he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Cory Gardner. And in Thursday’s version of this blog I looked at future leadership on the climate change front – some of which is coming out of ski towns. Also on Thursday, Johnston released a proposal for his own Green New Deal to address climate change, which he identifies as “an existential threat to our country and way of life.”
“Climate change is the single most important issue of our time and will probably be the single most important issue of our campaign,” Johnston told me in a recent interview. “And, for me and for you, it’s not just a nice-to-have, it is the livelihood and the lifeblood of our communities and our families. It’s how most of the Western Slope [of Colorado] survives is the ability to have climate that people want to come to visit, want to work in, want to recreate in.”
Now back to the Olympics. In 2013 I outlined my reasons for skipping the Sochi Games in 2014 after working at the three previous Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Torino and Vancouver. Russian President Vladimir Putin promptly used the global goodwill after those Games to take over the Crimea, and he’s been nothing but pain in the ass for western democracy ever since.
Putin, history may ultimately judge, used state-sponsored election meddling to give us the financially and morally bankrupt former reality TV star Trump in the White House – a guy who loves him some murderous dictators, from Putin to Kim Jong Un to Rodrigo Duterte to Mohammed Bin Salman. So Kasper’s comments fall right in line with that way of thinking.
It’s way easier to jam the Olympics down the throats of an oppressed populous than to leave it to the will of the people. That’s why I advocated so strongly for the Borat Olympics in 2014 – a contest between authoritarian regimes in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and, Beijing, China. Ultimately, Beijing offered up a bigger pile of cash for skiers to jump off and landed the 2022 Games.
The site of the 2026 Winter Games will be decided in June, but it’s down to just Stockholm, Sweden, and Milan, Italy, after Calgary, Canada, bailed out due to one of those pesky public votes back in October. If somehow Sweden and Italy pull the plug, expect Saudi Arabia to build billions of dollars of oil-burning snow domes to get the nod from Kasper’s cronies.
Finally, it’s fitting that deep red Utah – land of shrinking national monuments for mining and drilling – got the Olympic nod over Colorado for a possible 2030 Winter Olympic bid. Denver may never get the Games again after having the IOC award the city the 1976 Olympics, only to then give them back after, you guessed it, a negative public-funding vote.
But, hey, the Vail Valley got Beaver Creek out of the deal, and Colorado historically should be proud it’s the only place to ever land the Olympics and then have buyer’s remorse and give them back – especially when old men like Kasper and Trump are calling the shots.