Olympic Work Behind The Scenes
In 1981, Killy became involved with the campaign to bring the Olympic Games to the small town of Albertville, France, which had no ski area and no particular attractions. This project, called Le Comite d'Organisation des Jeux Olympiques (COJO), would occupy him for more than a decade, as it involved such huge tasks as improving the infrastructure and building new roads and rail lines in the region, which historically had been one of the most disorganized in France. Working with local politician Michel Barnier, Killy and other supporters traveled worldwide to promote the idea, visiting every member of the International Olympic Committee at least once. Killy told Johnson that at the beginning of this venture, he was so inexperienced that he thought lobbying "meant hanging around hotel lobbies and leaping out from behind the potted palms to talk to people." Killy's fame as a skier from the Albertville region proved to be helpful in convincing people that it was a plausible site for the Olympics.
In 1984, the Albertville backers were dismayed to hear that Paris was launching a bid to host the 1992 Summer Olympics. This would be disastrous, because the Winter and Summer Olympics in any one year were never held in the same country. The Paris campaign, led by French prime minister Jacques Chirac, was a powerful opponent to Killy and his team. However, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain, was an even more powerful opponent of the Paris bid, and it soon became clear that the Summer Olympics would be held in Barcelona, Spain. Chirac then endorsed the Albertville bid, and in 1986, Albertville won the position of host for the 1992 Olympics.
In January of 1987, Killy immediately became the center of a controversy when he announced a plan to cut costs for the Olympics, moving events from one venue to another, leaving some villages with no events. Killy, who was under a great deal of stress because his wife had been diagnosed with cancer, became furious at the arguments that ensued, and resigned from his position as co-president of COJO with Barnier on January 29, 1987.
Killy's dream of a long and happy life with his beloved wife was tragically cut short when Gaubert died of cancer later in 1987, on November 3. It was one day after their fourteenth wedding anniversary. Her death impressed Killy with the idea that life is short and one should live fully, in every moment.
Both Chirac and Samaranch convinced Killy to return to COJO, and he returned as co-president on March 11, 1988. In the meantime, many of the old arguments against him had died off. Killy signed a contract with IMG to promote the Olympics, and by 1990 COJO had $100 million in its treasury.
At the 1992 Albertville Olympics, most of the men's alpine events were held at Val d'Isere, where the mountainside was renamed "l'Espace Killy," or "Killy's area," in honor of its most famous skier. Killy, as co-president of the Albertville venture, had to resort to flying a helicopter to survey this huge domain, spread out over many different villages.
In 1995, Killy became a member of the International Olympic Committee, which oversees the Olympic Games. He was also president of the Tour de France bicycle race and the Paris-to-Dakar auto rally.
Summing up his philosophy of life, Killy told John Fry in Ski, "Win some, lose some. The object is to win more than you lose, but never give up…. Every youngkid who worked with me, I told him to find the answer, not to complain, just find the answer, please. There is one, always."
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