Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Ivo Ferriani, who will seek a third consecutive four-year term as President of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) this week, has apparently developed something of a mantra in recent years. "First four years - evaluation and creation. Second - implementation. Third - legacy".

Whether the 58-year-old Italian will get to do the legacy bit depends upon how the vote goes at the IBSF Congress on Wednesday (June 27) which is being held, for the first time, in Rome. It will also depend on how the members evaluate the challenge of rival Fritz Burkard.

It will be a particularly important election for Ferriani given that he has been proposed as the winter sports representative on the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to replace Gian-Franco Kasper.

Ferriani is understood to be close to the IOC President Thomas Bach, and his election to the IOC in 2016 - two years after being invited to join a working group on sustainability and legacy for Olympic Agenda 2020 - was widely seen as a first step to him assuming a position that is likely to be rubber-stamped later this year.

But not if he loses the IBSF Presidency.

At the last Presidential election during the IBSF Congress in Monaco four years ago, Ferriani saw off the only other challenger, Kwang-bae Kang, the South Korean who had served as vice-president of international affairs between 2010 and 2014, by a landslide of 37 votes to four.

The vote was to have been between three candidates, but Robert Storey, the Federation's previous President from Canada, withdrew before the vote was taken.

This time round, an estimated 150 participants are expected to gather in the Eternal City, including delegates from 41 National Federations, race organisers, track representatives, IBSF personnel and other guests.

As well as electing - or re-electing - their President, the entitled IBSF national delegates will choose vice-presidents in six key positions, with 14 candidates from 13 nations contending.

In the run-up to the Congress, Ferriani, secretary general Heike Größwang and the current vice-presidents will meet tomorrow (June 25) for the last IBSF Executive Committee meeting of the current term.

Ivo Ferriani is seeking re-election as IBSF President ©Getty Images
Ivo Ferriani is seeking re-election as IBSF President ©Getty Images

On Tuesday (June 26), the pre-Congress is scheduled with annual reports from the various resorts. Infront Sports & Media, the media and marketing partner of the IBSF, will present the results of the past Olympic season.

Then the organisers of the upcoming Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships - Whistler 2019, Altenberg 2020 and Lake Placid 2021 - as well as the Olympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing, will report on the status of their preparations.

So much for the mechanics. What of the dynamics?

For a number of reasons, it is clear that the 2018 version of the IBSF Congress will be a critical one.

The over-arching question, naturally, will be whether Ferriani gets the mandate to continue with the work he began in 2010. It looks likely - but it is not certain.

What is clear is that Ferriani has effectively transformed the Federation's administration during his tenure. One highly experienced observer describes it as a "step change".

The six vice-presidential positions cover key areas - financial affairs, sport, international affairs, marketing and events, communications and legal affairs.

More recently, Ferriani has established two special delegates with responsibility for bobsleigh and skeleton events - respectively Switzerland's Jos Mattli and Austria's Michael Grünberger.

They will work closely with the coordinators of each series as well as the various IBSF Committees, reporting to Größwang.

They will also be present at future IBSF Executive Committee meetings to report on sport specific matters in coordination and cooperation with the vice-president of sports.

"Recent years have shown that the activities in the sports sector, i.e. in the bob and skeleton areas - actually the core areas of our Federation - have been growing steadily," said Ferriani.

"In consultation with our vice-president for sport, Darrin Steele, we have become aware of the necessity to appoint one expert for each of these areas.

"These experts will deal in detail with the respective disciplines."

Following his re-election in 2014, Ferriani announced: "One of my aims is to develop the sport in Africa and Asia because I am sure we will find talented athletes there.

"I have already been in contact with the authorities in Nigeria, where there are a lot of track athletes who can run and push hard.

"We want to match them with good coaching and then see how they can help the sport develop."

Ghana's first Winter Olympian, Akwasi Frimpong, carries the national flag at the Opening Ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018 before his skeleton competition ©Getty Images
Ghana's first Winter Olympian, Akwasi Frimpong, carries the national flag at the Opening Ceremony of Pyeongchang 2018 before his skeleton competition ©Getty Images

This year in Pyeongchang, Nigerian competitors made their first Winter Games appearance with a women’s bobsleigh team - albeit with the help of their own GoFundMe campaign - and a men's skeleton athlete, Simidele Adeagbo.

The men’s skeleton event also saw a first competitor for Ghana, 31-year-old Akwasi Frimpong.

The IBSF race calendar now includes competitions on three continents every season and involves more than 70 National Federations including American Samoa, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Virgin Islands and Samoa.

Special support is offered for emerging nations to facilitate their start into the sport, including professional coaches, track time and transport subsidies.

Other badges of honour for Ferriani during his tenure have been the introduction of Para-sport, with bobsleigh to debut at the Beijing 2022. He has also backed the development of the more economically practical monobob for youth development.

Ferriani, a former bobsleigh athlete, is the obverse of a grey leader.

At the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, while coach of the French bobsleigh team, he made a bet with the driver of the four-man bob, Bruno Mingeon. If Mingeon managed to win a medal, he, Ferriani, would run through the snow by the course in his underwear. Mingeon won bronze. Ferriani kept his promise.

He knows his way around the sport, at all levels. And he is also politically astute - or, as one observer describes it, "streetwise".

In May 2015, following the startling criticism of IOC President Bach by the SportAccord President, Marius Vizer, the IBSF became the first Winter Federation to suspend its SportAccord membership.

"The Executive Committee unanimously decided to make the step following the 'inappropriate presentation of criticism and sharp words' during the SportAccord Convention in Sochi, which was re-stated this week during a visit of Vizer to Tokyo," a statement at the time explained.

Such support is not forgotten by Bach.

In the run-up to the election, Burkard - a vice president of the St Moritz Bobsleigh Cub who Ferriani brought into the Federation to work within the IBSF Para-Sport Committee - has claimed that some National Federation voters see a link with the IOC as a disadvantage rather than a positive factor as it can lead to a distraction in attention and resources. 

Some members are inclined to believe the IBSF is serving as a platform for Ferriani's personal political ambitions.

"I have absolutely no ambitions within the IOC and will focus 100 per cent on bobsleigh," he told insidethegames.

But others believe that being in Bach's good books can only be of continuing benefit to a sport that is conspicuously far from being cheap.

Unsurprisingly, Ferriani thinks his IOC links are advantageous for the IBSF.

Ivo Ferriani is understood to have a close working relationship with the IOC President Thomas Bach, pictured right ©Getty Images
Ivo Ferriani is understood to have a close working relationship with the IOC President Thomas Bach, pictured right ©Getty Images

"I think that having the President of the IF in the IOC is a jump-up for the National Federations," he told insidethegames.

"It will make the sport stronger and stronger by being led by someone in the IOC.

"I'm proud to be the President of the IBSF and an IOC member."

What might also supercharge Ferriani's electoral ambitions is an announcement to Congress of a new sponsorship flow from China in the lead-up to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. 

One insider notes that Ferriani "has been working very hard with the Chinese" and would not be surprised were such an announcement to be made.

Ferriani, conspicuously, referred to the options of the Chinese market while being asked recently whether the sponsorship of Gazprom, the giant Russian liquefied natural gas company whom Ferriani brought on board in July 2013, initially for a two-year deal worth €2 million (£1.5 million/$3 million), would continue.

If Gazprom does end its flow of support, and no similar sponsor is found, that would damage Ferriani's standing - and most probably impact heavily on the areas of the sport such as the development that he has always championed.

It could be argued that Ferriani has already answered the most important question that could be asked of him, namely where does he stand in regard to doping in sport? He oversaw the late switch of last year's World Championship venue from Sochi to Königssee amid continuing dismay from winter sport athletes and the wider world over news about Russian doping activities.

Ferriani was also critical of an IBSF Anti-Doping Hearing Panel ruling not to re-impose provisional suspensions against Olympic champions Aleksandr Tretiakov and Alexander Zubkov late last year due to perceived problems in how the cases were handled.

But the politician in Ferriani seems to prevent him going too far in any direction.

Russia is not hosting a World Cup event in the 2018-2019 season, but Ferriani has insisted that this is because they did not apply and not because they are banned from doing so.

"We would like to return to Russia as soon as we can," he said.

He also insisted he would "not comment on individual National Federations" when asked about his views on the likelihood of Zubkov being re-elected as Russian Bobsleigh Federation President later this year, despite the fact that the double bobsleigh gold medallist from Sochi 2014 has had his disqualification after being implicated in the doping regime upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Zubkov is still considered the frontrunner to be re-elected. Reports are somewhat confused, but there seems a possibility that he may turn up in Rome representing his Federation - which could prove highly embarrassing for the IBSF.

It seems beyond question that Ferriani is a man of vision - the salient question seems to be how much of a legacy he will be bringing to the sport.

And there remain concerns over the transparency of the organisation under his leadership, specifically regarding its finances.

Asked to list areas of current concern, one IBSF insider responded: "Ethics, transparency, accountability, financial disclosure, governance, communication and participatory democracy."

They added: "The IBSF has taken no steps towards open responsive leadership, transparency, accountability and professional management. It has promised reform and transparency for eight years. In fact, the IF is more opaque than ever."

New auditors will be elected for a two-year term at this Congress.

It is understood that the IBSF has not released the names and mailing lists for voting members to the various candidates before the election.

Fritz Burkard, left, who will challenge Ivo Ferriani for the ISBF Presidency on Wednesday, has been heavily involved in the development of Para-bobsleigh ©Fritz Burkard
Fritz Burkard, left, who will challenge Ivo Ferriani for the ISBF Presidency on Wednesday, has been heavily involved in the development of Para-bobsleigh ©Fritz Burkard

Burkard, meanwhile, is presenting himself as the change candidate, citing marketing and finance as two key areas for the world governing body.

"The IBSF is like an old beautiful historic villa which needs renovation," the 50-year-old told insidethegames.

"There doesn't need to be a revolution, but we need more than talk and must actually put plans into action."

He argues that the popularity of the Disney film Cool Runnings on the Jamaican bobsleigh team shows the commercial potential of the sport.

Burkard cites potential changes to the World Cup programme as a means to achieve this.

"We need to invest in making the sport more attractive for media and fans and, as a consequence, sponsors," he told insidethegames.

"Can we change the World Cup format as there has not been much change here for many years?"

Others within the IBSF have voiced frustration over the late scheduling for World Cup events, suggesting the series needs to be scheduled years in advance for operational and marketing reasons.

The consensus of the Swiss businessman, who spent 11 years as a manager at building and motor vehicle supplies firm Sika, is that he is a good operator who would do a decent job, although his lack of wider experience at the top level beyond his Para-sport work might mean he needs his hand holding at certain points.

One suggestion floated was that Ferriani might create a new position of vice-president for Para-sport which would give his rival a suitable alternative domain.

Sarah Storey, the daughter of Bob Storey, the long-time Federation President who was succeeded by Ferriani, was initially listed to challenge for President but is now focusing on other roles.

Some observers believe she may be damaged by that association, given that her father - for all his years of loyal service - also withdrew from the last election at short notice when it seemed he was unlikely to command the required support from members.

Storey, President of the National Federation in Canada since 2014, has reportedly annoyed some members by applying for every position, although she claims she did not and was put down for everything to undermine her.

Meanwhile, the potentially awkward situation regarding the incumbent vice president of international Affairs, Britain's Adam Pengilly, due to complete his eight years in the IOC Athletes Commission this year, who was sent home from the Pyeongchang Winter Games following an altercation with a security official, has resolved itself.

The hard question for members would have been whether Pengilly had lost the necessary influence with the IOC  to carry on with his valuable work in developing the sport.

But Pengilly told insidethegames today he had withdrawn his nomination for the position. "I made the decision on Friday," he said. "But I am travelling to Rome to carry out my remaining duties as vice president of international affairs."