Dr. John Grubbström - President, World Air Sports Federation Share PDF Print E-mail
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JohnGrubbstrom_FAIDr. John Grubbström is the President of the World Air Sports Federation (FAI). 

John Grubbström succeeded Pierre Portmann in 2010, who stepped down from the FAI Presidency after six years in office and was elected FAI President of Honour. 

Before his election, he held several high positions in aviation related non-profit organisations and the FAI, which included President of the Swedish Air Sport Federation and FAI Vice President. 

A holder of the Hot Air Private Balloon License since 1974, John Grubbström has been a frequent competitor (he took part in the 2009 World Air Games in Turin) and official in hot air ballooning, having flown in over 20 countries on all continents. He has been a Jury member, Steward and Competition Director of numerous events, including World championships.

Honorary President of the Swedish Ballooning Federation since 1985, he was awarded with the FAI Airsport Medal in 1998 and with the Royal Swedish Aero Club Gold Medal in 2004.

By Ismail Uddin

You are the President of the FAI. Can you tell us a bit more about the organisation? 

The FAI was founded in 1905 and is recognised by the International Olympic Committee as the world federation for air sports. Our head office has been based in Lausanne since 1998 and now represents air sports on behalf of some 110 members. Our aim is basically to increase and promote aeronautical and astronautical activities worldwide. We set and maintain the rules for each of our 10 sports. 

Every year we award and coordinate the organisation of more than 40 world and continental championships, while almost 700 regional competitions feature in our events calendar. We also deal with the ratification of records, for example those of parachutist Felix Baumgartner and more recently Solar Impulse. 

In addition, we promote skill, proficiency and safety in air sports and assist our member organisations in making sure that airspace is available to our sports.

You became President of the FAI in 2010. Why did you initially join the organisation and what changes have you made since you have been there? 

I grew up with a father who competed in aviation events in the 1930s so I was immersed in the world of air sports since early childhood. When I obtained my private hot air balloon license in 1974, I started to participate in competitions and quickly felt the desire to be involved in developing air sports. I took on several positions in various ballooning events, including that of world championships director, and became President of the Swedish Air Sport Federation and FAI Vice President. All those years as a volunteer allowed me to step in as the FAI President with a clear vision for the development of our sports and the federation. 

In the short and medium term, we must find other sources of finance to develop innovative air sports competitions and new event formats, and increase the FAI’s presence regionally. Since 2010 we secured a sponsorship contract with Breitling and created FAI Air Sports Marketing and Events SA (FAME) to promote air sports and create economic value for the FAI and its events. Furthermore, we implemented the Regional Management Structure in Asia, South America and Africa to better promote our sports, to improve our service to our Members and to recruit new ones.

As an IOC recognised governing body, what was your take on the recent elections? 

I followed the whole election process with great interest. Since its creation, the IOC has been led by men who left their mark on the sport. The vision of the new IOC President will certainly have an influence not only on the Olympic sports, but also on the whole sports community.

What about your own Olympic ambitions? Will Air Sports one day be in the Olympics? 

Featuring in the programme of the Olympic Games is for sure the dream of every sport. However everything comes at the right time, and while the Olympics remain a long-term ambition for us, we are focusing our efforts on the promotion of air sports and the creation or improvement of existing formats of events to make them more media and spectator-friendly. The recently created FAME is part of this on-going process, as well as our participation in multi-sport events such as the World Games and the Asian Beach Games.

How will you work with the new IOC President following the elections? 

I am looking forward to meeting with the new IOC President. As Germany has a long tradition in air sports, I am confident that Mr Bach will be open to our sports, especially considering that some air sports can provide attractive alternatives for side events and demonstrations at multi-sports events.

Air sports featured prominently at the World Games. How successful were those games in pushing your sports forward? 

The World Games are important to the FAI and we are proud that no less than three sports were at the 2013 edition in Colombia: parachuting, paragliding and, as a demonstration sport, indoor aeromodelling. 

We worked hard at making our events successful. Amongst our main efforts I would like to mention the improvement of the formats of our events to make them easier to understand and to follow for everyone; the running of both parachuting and paragliding events concurrently on the same site, for maximum spectator interest; active communication and promotion before, during and after the Games; the continuation of our antidoping strategy. 

All those efforts were rewarded beyond expectations by the warm interest shown by the spectators on site, the extensive worldwide media coverage and the positive feedback we got from our athletes who were very grateful for the enthusiastic welcome and support they received from the Colombian crowds. We are now looking at the World Games 2017 in Poland and working on securing the presence of our sports in the programme.

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