News and views from Gilbert Felli
Having entered into the CIO as sporting director 20 years ago, Gilbert Felli today is the executive director of the Olympic Commitee for the Olympic Games. Formerly head of the sports section, this 63 year old from Leysin spends half the year abroad, but he loves Lausanne.
When Gilbert Felli looks back on his career, he likes to say that he seized all the good opportunities that were presented to him. Towards the end of his adolescence, Gilbert Felli was a part of the Swiss ski team. “I had to stop to make way for my architectural studies,” he explains. He then left for the USA and officiated as a coach for the Americans. Impressed by his style, they proposed that he returned to the professional circuit. After two seasons, he moved to New Zealand to teach skiing. He was already restless. Gilbert Felli returned to Switzerland, to Leysin, in 1974, first as the director of the ski school and then as the director of the sports centre of the Vaudois resort. “I was also politically engaged, in the local council and in the cantonal parliament. Indeed, it was partly for this reason that I left Leysin to come to Lausanne.”
“Lausanne is an impressive visiting card”
The calls of Samaranch
To Lausanne, the capital. Boosted by his experience in the sporting world in Leysin, Gilbert Felli became director of sports for the City of Lausanne in 1983, remaining so for seven years. Seven years during which the Leysenoud worked in close collaboration with the former president of the CIO, Juan Antonio Samaranch. “He often called me,” he laughs. “He wanted Lausanne to be a true sporting Olympic capital.” Then, in 1990, Juan Antonio Samaranch called Gilbert Felli again. He asked him to rejoin the CIO as sporting director. “Frankly, I didn’t have the time to even stop and think about it. Samaranch wanted a quick response so that he could announce it at a conference two days later. I accepted.” Currently, the former head of the sports section is dealing with relations between the organising committees. His background as an architect helps him to understand the language of experts and to convey their thoughts to other people in different walks of life. In Sochi, London and Rio.
The quality of life
As a father of two grown children, Gilbert Felli is constantly on the move. But although he sometimes spends whole days on aeroplanes, the Vaudois appreciates the quality of life in Lausanne. “It’s an easy city to live in. The countryside is charming. And the proximity to everything, the lake and the mountains, it’s an impressive visiting card. We have to realise how lucky we are. A city of this size wouldn’t exist on a world scale without sport. Moreover, it’s what Samaranch understood before everybody, in the 80s.” He recalls Lake Geneva and seems almost embarrassed to mention the view of the lake and the Alps, as if it were shamefully obvious.
At the age of 63, however, Gilbert Felli admits that he would have more trouble coping without the mountains than without the lake. Because of this, whenever his schedule allows him, he hurries to Leysin to take a break, before returning to Lausanne and then leaving for new horizons once again. Constantly on the move.
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