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World ski chief pushing 2022 bid for St. Moritz

The president of the International Ski Federation has been to every Winter Olympics in his lifetime since the five-ring circus came to his hometown of St. Moritz in 1948 — one week after his fourth birthday.

The now 68-year-old Gian Franco Kasper plans to help bring back the games in 2022 as part of a planned joint bid with another ritzy Alpine resort, Davos.

Kasper acknowledges that the project to make St. Moritz the first three-time Winter Games host is an intensely personal one.

"My grandfather was involved in 1928, and my father was president — though not for the whole time — of the '48 Olympics," Kasper told The Associated Press in an interview.

"It would be extremely important to me. It's my hometown and my wish, of course."

Kasper outlined the Davos-St. Moritz proposal as the near neighbors enjoyed their weekend in the international spotlight.

While Davos hosted global powerbrokers at the annual World Economic Forum, St. Moritz staged World Cup races in Alpine skiing — arguably the Winter Olympics' signature sport — and luge.

Kasper believes both towns offer the secure, high-class hosting required for a two-week sports festival.

"You need the comfort of the big city but preferably without the city — and that is what you have in those places," said the 12-year member of the International Olympic Committee, which will choose the 2022 venue.

The mountainside towns aim to capture the intimacy of Lillehammer in Norway, the picturesque and popular Winter Games host in 1994.

By comparison, big-city 2010 host Vancouver was 90 minutes away from snow and sliding sports venues in Whistler, while 2014 host Sochi is a Black Sea summer resort with a subtropical climate.

"I hear so many colleagues saying we have to go back to normal size, we have to go back to winter," said Kasper. "To go to capital cities, it doesn't give you the right ambiance."

Kasper conceived the bid idea with fellow Swiss Rene Fasel, the International Ice Hockey Federation president who represents winter sports on the IOC's ruling board.

Around 100 IOC voters might yet be easy to persuade in a poll scheduled in 2015, when Swiss members can't take part. Nor will voters from rival candidate nations, which could include Kazakhstan, Spain and Ukraine.

Still, the Davos-St. Moritz team has a battle to win before even getting to Olympic election day. In November, a referendum of almost 200 districts in the canton (state) of Graubunden will decide whether a formal bid is launched.

Kasper knows his people well — "my family's been here 400 years" — and he's cautious about a possible opposition alliance of farmers, environmentalists and socialists.

"This will be very difficult," he said. "Why should the people of Arosa or Laax or Flims say, 'We shall spend our tax money for the rich people in St. Moritz?'

"If they say no, that is the end of it."

Another concern is that a mid-February Olympics would make Davos unable to host the World Economic Forum in its usual slot, and perhaps it would not return.

A 'yes' vote will prompt an expected $44 million candidacy, funded equally by local residents, national authorities and private backing.

"40 million (Swiss francs)? A banker gets that in a few months," said Kasper, who was noted for easygoing dry humor.

Kasper said a successful bid would likely mean both St. Moritz and Davos get new ice stadiums and Olympic villages.

"They all need apartments for the local people. There will be no so-called white elephants, for sure not," he said.

In fact, many 1948 venues familiar to Kasper's father would be used with some renovations, including the ski jumping hill.

Kasper is a veteran of 17 consecutive Winter Olympics.

"My father took me along in '52 (staged in Oslo) and '56 (Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy) and then I had my own jobs. I think I have probably the highest number. I've seen enough!"

Still, one more at home would be nice.