World Cup was to be brought into being by a near - perfect
conjunction of events and the support of a handful of
important people. The very name chosen to designate
it was of the utmost importance. World Cup, Coupe du
Monde, Weltcup, Coppa del Mondo, echoed like a fanfare
in all the languages of the world.
Even before the first race, the World Cup was to assume
significance thanks to its name.
At that time, other than in soccer, there were no other
World Cups. And soccer's international trophy had only
been dubbed the World Cup by the British that same year.
Today, of course, there are a hundred - odd world cups,
in everything from sailing to cycling, fencing to volleyball,
rugby to bob-sledding. In skiing alone-including jumping
and cross-country - there are half a dozen, all inspired
by the name and, sometimes, by the spirit and the formula
of the Alpine skiing World Cup which my colleagues and
The World Cup was not only a journalistic creation.
I can confirm that having been a journalist since 1940.
But it was an event devised with the media in mind-not
just the mass circulation newspapers and the sporting
press-but radio and especially television.
Audiences, readers and sponsors have shown this to be
right. The World Cup has become a massive world-wide
attraction. But in the early days there were only three
journalists who were prepared to put their professional
weight behind the project. Those three were : Michel
Clare of L'Equipe, the famous French sports paper ;
John Fry, then managing editor of Ski Magazine in New
York ; and Austria's Kurt Bernegger, a reporter for
Salzburger Nachrichten, later with Austrian television
and to my mind the most far-sighted commentator of that
era. I might never have dared push our project forward
had he and I not shared a similar approach to sports.
And what of all the other sportswriters and broadcasters
? While they were not really against the World Cup,
neither were they ready to support it. Later I was to
read with great interest that a good many of them had,
for a long time, imagined a similar ranking system.
Well, such a system was not unique. Other sports had
adopted a point-based ranking system for some time.
The Desgrange - Colombo Challenge and the Prestige Pernod
in cycling, and the Golden Ski of L'Equipe, awarded
ten years earlier, all used similar systems.
However, the World Cup borrowed its format from sailing.
It followed its system of only counting at the beginning
a limited number (best 3) of finishes from each discipline
towards the overall ranking. “That way, our skiers
won't feel obliged to participate in every race,”
said French team coach Honore Bonnet.
He was wrong. That was, we were all to realize very
soon, giving too little credit to racers' tactical sense.
Even after having accumulated their maximum number of
points in any given event, they still raced to deny
rivals the chance to score more and get close to them.
After all the first place was worth 25 points.
The Story of the World Cup began late one January morning
in 1966, less than a hundred meters from the “Hinterseer
Farm”, halfway down Kitzbühel's Hahnenkamm
downhill course. Struck by sudden inspiration, I turned
to French Team Director Honoré Bonnet and US
coach Bob Beattie, who were also there to watch the
”What we are going to do,” I said, “Is...to
hold a World Cup” I was speaking in English for
the benefit of Bob Beattie, so “World Cup”
was the actual phrase, I used. At that point Beattie
was defending the idea of yearly World Championships.
In a way, of course, I can take no great credit for
this. For several weeks the British had been using the
term, for soccer's world championship being played in
England that summer 1966.
That years, skiing and football seemed to travel a good
way down the same road. Even in Portillo, Chile, where
the Alpine World Cup was effectively born a few months
later, I found myself on the edge of the downhill course
at 10 am-listening to the soccer final between England
and West-Germany at Wembley.
It was thanks to Bonnet, Beattie and Dr Sepp Sulzberger,
a lawyer who, since 1958, was in overall charge of the
Austrian Alpine skiing teams, that the Cup was launched.
However, it was Marc Hodler, President of the International
Ski Federation (FIS) since 1951 who had the courage
to shoulder the heavy responsibility and declare that
the first World Cup would be raced under FIS patronage
on the 1967 winter schedule.
I once read that history knows how to choose the men
and the women it needs to carry out its destiny.
Perhaps it is true. After all, I held no mandate in
any ski federation. The only official title I had was
president of the International Association of Ski Journalists.
But this was enough to enable me to have official-and
usually friendly - relationships with the executives
of the various ski federations, the FIS and, more importantly,
Even though Hodler had long been enthusiastic about
such a project, nothing was certain in Portillo. Even
after long days and nights of negotiations with my three
partners and with the project finally ready, Bob Beattie
doubted that we would get FIS approval. For a week he
had set out possible objections while still being one
of the World Cup's greatest supporters. Then one evening
he got up from the table, pointed to a piece of paper
on which we had noted the various points of our agreement-the
dates of the first schedule the rules and the points
system and so on-and said : “ Marc Hodler
will never accept this proposal “.
Fortunately this was a gross misreading of Marc Hodler,
of his sportsmanship, enthusiasm, goodwill and his long
range vision. The next day, around noon, and in the
same bar where - with the aid of much “Pisco” and coffee - we'd just spent a good part
of our Chilean nights, Marc Hodler studied the proposal
for a few minutes then asked simply : “What time
do you want me in the Press Room to announce the creation
of this World Cup ? “
So everything was set. In the heart of the Andes, thousands
of miles from the Alps, the old pre - World Cup ski
racing died on 11 August 1966. And another, new era,
whose outlines we could not yet make out, was about
The simultaneous naming of Bonnet, Beattie and Sulzberger
as the three head coaches of their respective national
teams, lent them considerable credibility. Since the
retirement of Austria's Fred Roessner in 1956, no coach
had attained the stature. This could also lead one believe
that, they too, were destined to fundamentally alter
the face of Alpine Ski racing.
At that time international ski racing was in the doldrums
- except for its natural peaks, the Olympic Games and
the World Championships which kept their dominating
role thanks to the media an popular support. However,
there was a new medium to contend with. At about this
time, the growing interest of television highlighted
the need for change in the ski racing format. I had
already begun to make its presence felt in the skiing
world, making its own stars out of what had formerly
been simply ski racing champions. Racers likes Jean
Claude Killy, Karl Schranz and Leo Lacroix clamored
for TV attention. International skiing was desperately
in need of a new showcase.
Bonnet and Beattie had come up with the idea of the
Alpine Countries Cup some time before. The concept had
played down individual victories and elevated nation-by-nation
racing. This was an excellent idea in itself, but likely
to generate mass support. Ski racing is a sport of individuals,
not a team game. And TV wanted to concentrate on stars.
However, in 1965, Beattie, Bonnet and Sulzberger decided
to create a tournament in Vail, Colorado, restricted
to the American, French and Austrian teams. To justify
this three-country “World Series”, Beattie
stated that the contest would exclude nations whose
athletes had not won medals in the Innsbruck Olympic
Games the years before. This was the case for the Swiss,
who had been freewheeling since the tragic death of
Georges Schneider in the summer of 1963, and for the
While the US, French and Austrian skiers battled it
out in that memorable encounter in Vail, the Swiss,
left to their own devices, turned the snub into a question
of prestige. Many of their racers then skied on American-made
Head skis. Then there was the matter of FIS-points :
the athletes competing at the three-nations contest
at Vail were reaping points by the sackfulll. It was
in mid-March 1965, with the Vail series still in progress
in Colorado that a powerful Swiss team descended on
Sun Valley, Idaho, where the North American circuit
was continuing with the Harriman Cup. Despite the antagonism
generated by the limiting of the Vail contest, all Alpine
countries had, by coming to USA, implicitly accepted
the idea that the American circuit was worthy of their
But something else was also triggered during 1965. It
happened in summer, far from the slopes, in the heart
of Roubaix where a dense crowd had gathered to witness
the morning start of one of the stages of the Tour de
France. Through the confusion of the cycling teams'
arrival, Jacques Goddet - chief editor of l'Equipe and
head of the Tour de France itself - strode towards me
in pressed khaki pants like central-casting's idea of
a British officer.
”Hello Serge” he said. “Listen, dear
friend, no-one can make head nor tail of this ski racing
business anymore. One day Killy is winning, the next
it's Schranz, Marielle or Billy, Dick or Harry. Come
on, get me something together. A challenge to decide
the winner, a gimmick or an event like the Super Prestige
Pernod in cycling. Fix it with Albert de Wetter and
get me outline before the end of the Tour de France”
At that time, De Wetter, a noted journalist, was one
of L'Equipe's two representatives in the Publicis group,
the main advertising agency of this important sports
paper. De Wetter shouted me over an awful cacophony
of car horns : “I've found a client who wants
to spend a quarter of a million to link his logo with
skiing and snow - it's Evian mineral water. You get
the picture - drink Evian and feel like you're in the
French Alps. Set up a challenge with a ranking over
a number of races...See you at Bordeaux”.
In Saintes, on the eve of our next meeting, I drafted
my project. There was to be a point system : 25 for
the winner, 20 for the second, 15 for the third and
son one until 1 for the tenth. There would be a dozen
races. Everything was to begin at Hindelang in the western
part of the Bavarian Alps and to end, at the beginning
of March, in Murren with the Arlberg Kandahar where
all the points would be added up. It was a simple idea
and, including the schedule, it fitted on two-double
I gave my outline to De Wetter the night of the Bordeaux
stage of the Tour de France. But it did not seem to
interest him as much as it had a few days earlier in
Roubaix. The challenges was, however, to begin - as
scheduled - a few months later. It was won by Karl Schranz
and Marielle Goitschel yet it was named “Challenge
de l'Equipe” and not “Challenge Evian” . Because
of a banal misunderstanding, the original sponsorship
agreement had never been completed.
The “Challenge de L'Equipe” survived one
year. A wasted year ? Hardly. That season was a great
prelude to the World Cup. After Billy Kidd, who led
the Challenge after his slalom victory at Hindelang,
injured himself during the Hahnenkamm slalom at Kitzbühel,
no-one talked anything but the World Cup - the name
which had struck a chord a stone's throw from Hinterseer's
The first World Cup would, however, be graced by the
Evian Trophy - the famous Crystal Globes introduced
in 1968. Once Evian learned that what a stake was no
longer a challenge but an authentic World Cup under
the aegis of the FIS, the company wanted to share it.
I have good reasons to believe that had the 1966 World
Championships - then held every four years - taken place
anywhere else but Portillo, Chile, in the Southern hemisphere
far away from the Alps, the World Cup would never seen
the light of the day. The Southern Cross were to be
our lucky stars. If those World Championships had been
awarded to a more traditional European venue - Davos,
Garmisch or Kitzbühel for instance - our proposal
for a World Cup - which would run throughout the season
from country to country - would not have overcome the
opposition of the most conservative voices in skiing.
But in Portillo, they were of no consequence. They did
The move to Portillo was itself revolutionary. Think
of it...what kind of idea was it, to go and hold World
skiing championships, in midsummer, at the far end of
the world, let alone to discuss a new idea for a World
Cup ? Anyway, at the crucial moment, the stick-in-the-muds
were not there to bray that a World Cup would serve
no purpose and would only cause additional problems.
Of course, they made their positions known, but much
later - too late, once everything had begun.
The whole set-up in Portillo was of vital importance
too. The small resort was situated a few kilometers
from the Chilean-Argentine border, perched at nearly
9,000 feet. All the skiers and officials had to live
together in a single hotel offering only 100-odd beds.
This excluded battalions of unwelcome visitors.
Everything had to happen either in the hotel or on the
slopes. While the Andes offered an admirable diversity
of skiing, in the hotel everything was confined to dining
room bar and the basement night club where those who
professed to find sleeping difficult because of the
altitude spent their nights.
It was in that bar, which was deserted after dinner,
that Bonnet, Beattie, Sulzberger and I sat day in, day
out. In Portillo, the French feasted on medals - 16
out of a possible of 24 and a new World championships
record. While the racers' attention was fixed on the
events of the World Championships, most of them greeted
the idea of the World Cup with enthusiasm. Jean Claude
Killy, who was to be the big winner of the Portillo
events, told me a few days before their start : <None
too soon, this World Cup ! I seethe at the idea of what
could happen at these World Championships. Take Karl
Schranz for example. This past winter he had a fantastic
season. Here he's in a series of one-day-races. And
if he doesn't win a single title...what will we look
lie ? > And that was exactly what happened. In Portillo,
the “Black Eagle “ from St Anton, who,
a few months earlier had eclipsed all his rivals, had
to settle for a consolation bronze medal in the giant
A few months later, as the opening date of the first
World Cup approached, I had misgivings. How would it
be greeted by the countries with long skiing traditions,
whose racers were already classic events long before
the World Cup as though of. Later, the Cup not only
helped all the classics but proved to be crucial in
the development of many races and many resorts.
The first inkling of how the traditional skiing countries
would react came from Ernst Gertsch, the father of Wengen's
Lauberhorn races. The name <World Cup>, he announced,
would be on the hole range of the official programs,
poster and result sheets, as would be the Cup's rule
and regulations. Adelboden - through Dr. Fred Rubi,
director of the tourist office and a high Swiss government
official - gave proof of its co-operations a few days
later. But Kitzbuhel - the Mecca of Tyrolean Alpine
skiing where the people are wary of anything they have
not thought of and created themselves - would be the
moment of truth. In discovered the answer as I arrived
in the center of the town. In front of the Hotel Tenne,
a banner spanned the main street
proclaiming the magic word “Weltcup”.
In Germany, where Berchtesgaden organized the first
two men's World Cup events on the slopes of the Jenner,
no notice was taken of it. But it is true that we did
not take care to inform Berchtesgaden of its presence
on the World Cup calendar. Kurt Bernegger, of the Salzburger
Nachrichten saw it coming though. The day before the
Berchtesgaden races, he headlined his January 5th article
: “Historic Day for Skiing - the World Cup is
And in Madonna di Campiglio in Italy, the organizers
realized too late that a slalom, run in their traditional
“3-Tre” event was to count towards the Cup.
In the event, the Cup would only fire the Italian imagination
in December 1969, with Gustavo Thoeni's first victory
in the Val d'Isere giant slalom. Thoeni clinched the
Cup four times from 1971 to 1975.
The Governor of Massachussetts, Napoleon Volpi, was
to make no mistake about it, however. When our Pan-Am
flight landed in Boston in March 1967, he was there
to greet the World Cup racers heading for Franconia,
New Hampshire, where the World Cup was to make its American
Jean Claude Killy's achievements in the most prestigious
downhill and slalom races certainly helped his own personal
prestige by winning the first overall World Cup title.
But perhaps even more, he helped the prestige of the
World Cup which motivated him so strongly.
But it was with the tense duel in America between France's
Marielle Goitschel and Canada's Nancy Greene later that
season that the World Cup really took off. By the time
of the final slalom at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, only an
outright win by Nancy could deprive the French girl
of her overall points lead and the first Crystal Trophy.
To the delight of the North-American audiences, Greene
took the slalom by 7/100 of a second and with it the
overall World Cup. As a dramatic event, the World Cup
had proved itself beyond all our expectations.
The endless Portillo nights, the hours and hours of
discussion, the tired old arguments, the rehashing of
issues we'd thought already solved had proved worthwhile.
The dace of Alpine Skiing had been changed for ever
at a stoke. During that 1967 season, the downhills,
slaloms, giant slaloms, whether great classic or races
until then of modest importance, had all suddenly become
The celebration of the World Cup's successful first
year took over Jackson Hole, the season's last stop.
And some party it proved to be. No-one had anything
like it in Wyoming since the days when, after six months
of hunting and trapping alone the Snake River, the rugged
mountain-men of yesterday would come to town to let
Then it was time to prepare the World Cup's second season.
Firstly we realised it was crucial to place it officially
under the aegis of the International Ski federation.
This was to happen in June 1967, in Beirut, only a few
days before the Six days War. Beirut was chosen - over
many other sites - by the preceding FIS General Assembly.
As the meeting began, Beirut was still a magic city
of great beauty and peace but high in the skis, the
vapour trails of the Israeli Mirages were visible above
the ruins of Baalbek.
Backstage at the FIS, the in-fighting began immediately.
I was shocked, The World Cup which ad come so far still
annoyed a lot of people. Only tow months after Jackson
Hole, Bob Beattie was already unsure that we had made
the right move. I was too. We wondered what would have
happen of we simply took the World Cup back and ran
it ourselves, selling the individual races to local
organisers as does the Tour de France ? And why not
? Setting up such a structure independent from the FIS
would have been possible. Legally, the World Cup still
belonged to those who had invented it and promoted it,
not to a federation filled with voices which called
for it to be banned. Bon and I became involved in seemingly
endless discussions again about the World Cup, just
as we had done the year before at Portillo. But we both
eventually came to the same conclusion : if we wanted
to take the World Cup back and run it ourselves, it
could be done.
Nevertheless, we also concluded that it was unthinkable
to act in a way which Honoré Bonnet, Sepp Sulzberger
and , most of all, Marc Hodler, would have seem as an
intolerable departure from the spirit of the initial
project, and perhaps even, as a betrayal of its ideals.
Bob and I abandoned our dreams and got down to the difficult
task of putting the cased for a World Cup circuit under
the aegis of the FIS.
I had spread myself thin in the first hectic days in
Beirut, reassuring those delegates who needed reassuring,
enlisting those who needed enlisting. BY 2 PM on the
final day, everything seemed to be settled.
In a restaurant on the Beka Plain cooled by a waterfall,
I walked over to March Hodler who was finishing his
lunch. “They're all agreed” I told him.
“If you get them together over coffee,
everything can be settled in a few minutes”.
Hodler looked at me :
“Out of question” he snapped.
“The downhill-slalom committee wants to
debate the World Cup's FIS ratification - pretending
that they were not advised - well, let them go back
to Beirut and debate it then. They deserve it.
I too left that cool oasis to return to Beirut only
to find a worried-looking Peter Baumgartner, member
of the Swiss Federation, pacing outside the room.
“Don't join it” he told me.
“Don't go in. They are furious at having
had to come back to Beirut. If they see you, they will
be even less favorable”.
The discussion lasted several hours. Finally, as expected,
the downhill-slalom committee members agreed. There
was one additional tangible result : Bibbo Nordenskjoerld
from Sweden was elected to the new World Cup committee
headed by Marc Hodler. Thankfully, he was a great friend
of modern ski racing and he always supported the World
Next day, the convention ratified the downhill-slalom
committee's motion. And so, at last, the World Cup became
an official FIS event. As the delegates left Lebanon
unconsciously living through it last hours of happiness,
the Six Days War was beginning. But for the World Cup,
the danger was over and ski racing was on its way to
becoming a major international sport.