The Creation of the World Cup
by Serge Lang

The 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 I created.
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 practice runs.
”What we are going to do,” I said, “ 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, its president.
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 to begin.
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 Canadians.
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 best racers.
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 spaced pages.
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 farm.
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 not come.
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 slalom race.
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 Coming”.
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 debut.
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 stars events.
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 off steam.
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 Cup.
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.

by Serge Lang