Sunday, September 20, 2009

Top 10 Snowsports Dictators

The ski vs snowboarder debate is as old as snowboarding itself and it is also very, very played out. Despite this week we have decided to exhume its decaying corpse for one last shot at the limelight, because we’ve found a new angle – Snowsports Dictators. They’re mostly skiers and they’re mostly evil, and you don’t get that as part of the snowboarding package
Illicit’s Guide to the Top 10 Snowsports Dictators…

10. Alexander Lukashenko
AKA: Disappointingly he has no nick name. As far as I can tell he’s not even called Alex by his friends - President of Belarus 1994 to date
You have to be a proper Dictator for no one to point out that it’s time to have a haircut.

When elected to power Lukashenko claimed that, although 93.5% of the vote went to him, he directed the government to announce a lower result of 86% to make it more acceptable to western governments.
Here’s the views of the Daily Mail on Alexander Lukashenko and Belarus...
President Lukashenko seems intent on proving that absolute power can drive a man absolutely loopy. He has recently taken to proclaiming that his four-year-old illegitimate son is also his heir. His wife lives a reclusive life as a milkmaid in a remote farmstead.
I can vouch for the fact that, at first sight, this is the nicest despotism you are likely to find in a long time. It even says 'I Love Belarus' on the police car number-plates. And Minsk looks like a child's picture-book version of the old Soviet Union.
And he is a keen skier. He took part in the Minsk Ski Track Race in 2009
Alexander Lukashenko represented the presidential team in the last stage of the relay race and brought a victory to his squad. Alexander Lukashenko defied his colleagues – presidents of other countries to compete in the ski race. Among 10, 000 participants there were also veterans of WWII proving that healthy lifestyle is a norm for the Belarusians
Well he must be a really good skier if he won.
Lukashenko gets a head-start
Snowsports Points: 30/50 – I suspect his skiing abilities might be a bit inflated.
Dictator Points: 15/50 – ‘the nicest despotism you are likely to find’ – The  Daily Mail. Not an impressive reference at all.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 45% - A surprising lack of dictatorial flare combined with a moustache, cross country skiing and topped off with a bad haircut.

9. Maurice Michaud
AKA: “Dictateur de la Neige” (the Snow Dictator) - head of the French government's CIAM (Commission interministerielle pour l'amenagement de la montagne) 1960-1972
I couldn't find a photo of Maurice Michaud so this picture of Maurice from Madagascar will have to do.
Michaud was an engineer who had a key role in the development of French ski resorts including Les Ménuires, La Plagne, Tignes and Courchevel which he helped build with Laurent Chappis, a lad he met while imprisoned in a Nazi prisoner of war camp in Austria. He was also an arrogant man who didn’t mince his words which got him into a fair few public incidents. He was French so this is not that unusual.

A bit of background from the Piste Hors site recalling his involvement in the development of Courchevel:

A pipe smoker, Michaud also suffered from a stutter, although some people thought he exaggerated this affliction to give him more time to think when asked difficult questions. He was also a man of action, not someone to let technicalities and rules stand in his way. People who met him, especially women, found him direct, sometimes to the point of rudeness. Always controversial, the journalist Danielle Arnaud went as far as to dub him The Snow Dictator.

Michaud recalled the early days where deals were done "half in the office, half in a bistrot. Because I spent all of my time dealing with irregularities I realised it would take forever by orthodox means. To turn the mule track into a road we went almost as far as stealing land. If a landowner didn't cooperate we waited until his back was turned and 'hop' we sent in the bulldozers. Everything was sorted out over a glass of wine, because I knew everybody in the area."

He is not remembered fondly in resort of Avoriaz because he described the resort as a ‘carbuncle’.

He also had a pop at Eric Boissonnas who financed the development of Flaine by calling him "a poet suffering from having 40 billion Francs" and then he was made to apologise by France's tourism minister.

Snowsports Points: 40/50 – Big points for practically building all the resorts in France.
Dictator Points: 5/50 – In the dictator stakes Michaud was all fart and no poo.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 45% - It gets better from here. Guess who's next.

8. Adolf Hitler
AKA: Führer und Reichskanzler – German Head of State 1933-1945
Killer of 6 million Jews, Instigator of the largest war the world has ever seen,
vegetarian and hoster of Olympic pageantry
Hitler’s dictator background doesn’t need an introduction so let’s look at his snowsports credentials.
In 1936 Nazi Germany hosted the Olympic Games and in those days the Winter games were hosted by the same country in the same year. Visitors on the whole found the event to be very efficient and for the Nazis to be jolly nice people.

A few of the foreign correspondents didn’t follow the script. Westbrook Peglar, then a sports reporter for the New York World Telegram, infuriated Goebbels and the Propaganda Ministry by ignoring the völkish grins and goodwill on display everywhere and writing about some 5,000 to 10,000grim-looking S.S. and Wehrmacht troops with their Nazi scuttle helmets and determined looks as they marched and blitzkrieged on nearby winter maneuvers. (Hitler ordered the winter exercises cancelled.)

The SS - Surprisingly non-Aryan
The organizers and Ministry of Propaganda had learned some lessons in advance of the real games to start in August. First, keep army maneuvers out of sight. Second, quit having the countless loudspeakers interrupt the proceedings constantly with their barked announcements which always began – Achtung! Achtung!” 
Sourced from Dan Simmon’s site 

Hitler was actually a big disappointment when it comes to skiing as he found it “frivolous and dangerous”. He was less interested in the sport and more interested in flirting with the Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie...  

Snowsports Points: 5/50 – All he did was wave his hand around at a couple of ceremonies and flirt with an ice dancer.
Dictator Points: 50/50 – The quintessential totalitarian dictator you just don’t get a better example.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 55% A surprising low point in Hitler’s career of appearing in Top 10 Dictator countdowns.

7. Nixon Dictator
AKA: Now looking like a very inappropriate name for a watch – Available for $130

Nixon is a watch company built on its association with snowboarding, skateboarding and surf culture. Here’s a description of the company from their website:

We make the little shit better.
Are they talking about Hitler?

The stuff you have that isn't noticed first, but can't be ignored. We pay attention to it. We argue about it. We work day and night to make the little shit as good as it can be, so when you wear it, you feel like you've got a leg up on the rest of the world. We believe that you deserve a lot of respect. When you choose to wear a watch, or select a wallet to hold your hard earned cash, or want to put the final touch on your steez, you deserve to have something that reflects your entire package.
And now they are talking about my cock?

You may not know how to say it, but you've got something to say. Dammit brothers and sisters, you can't slap on an off-the-shelf piece and consider yourself you. Can you? That's why we started Nixon and that's why, 8 years later, we're still here.

They are clearly as mad as Idi Amin

The Nixon Dictator is available in two colours with digital sound recording and play back functionality.

Snowsports Points: 35/50 – Points for being at least relevant to snowboarding which is what this site is about after all.
Dictator Points: 25/50 – A very literal use of the word.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 60% - Snowboarding's only entry in the list falls at the seventh.

6. Saparmurat Niyazov
AKA: The Great Turkmenbashi (The Great Leader of Turkmens), His Excellency Saparmurat Turkmenbashi, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers – President for Life 1990-2006
 Niyazov does his Fat William Shatner impression
Niyazov was First Secretary of the Turkmen Communist Party from 1985 until 1991. Under his leadership the Turkmen Communist Party was one of the most hardline and unreformed party organizations in the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Niyazov was elected as the country's first popularly elected president; he was the only candidate.
Niyazov was one of the world's most totalitarian and repressive dictators with a reputation for imposing his personal eccentricities upon the country, which included renaming months after members of his family, and replacing the word for bread with the name of his mother. He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk "Turkmenbashi" after himself, and renamed schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and members of his family
The Neutrality Arch in Ashgabat features a gold-plated statue of Niyazov,
which rotates 360 degrees every 24 hours so it always faces the sun.
His other strange orders included:
  • In January 2006 one-third of the country's elderly had their pensions discontinued. Pensions received during the prior two years were ordered paid back to the state.
  • All hospitals outside of Ashgabat were ordered shut, with Niyazov feeling that sick people should come to the capital for treatment, which caused quite a lot of death.
  • He banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he had difficulty telling male and female newsreaders apart.
  • Niyazov requested that a palace of ice be built near the capital, though Turkmenistan is a desert country with a hot and arid environment.
Yeah. That’s why he’s on the list, a freaking ice palace in the desert. Here’s part of an article from The Independent.
Turkmenistan's President, Saparmyrat Niyazov, already has a well-earned reputation as one of the world's most eccentric megalomaniacs, but "The Great Turkmenbashi", as he likes to be known, appears to have laid down a new marker in neo-Stalinist oddity, even by his own bizarre standards.

Allegedly anxious to please the five million long-suffering citizens of his Central Asian fiefdom, one of the world's hottest countries, Mr Niyazov has ordered that a palace made of ice be constructed in the mountains outside Ashgabat, the capital, despite the fact that temperatures in the region can reach up to 50C. "Let us build a palace of ice big and grand enough for 1,000 people," he enthused on national TV. "Our children can learn to ski and ice-skate. We can build cafés and restaurants."

The 64-year-old dictator wants a giant aquarium stocked with tropical fish to be fixed atop the palace and has ordered that the building be linked with Ashgabat by cable car.
Every dictator should have his own James Bond villain ice palace.

His successor is the brilliantly named Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow who is believed to be the illegitimate son of Nayzov.

Snowsports Points: 15/50 – The ice palace was a stroke of genius but unfortunately he died from a stroke before it was built and his replacements thought it just wasn't worth pursuing.
Dictator Points: 50/50 – Full points with rotating golden statues and incredible levels of megalomania.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 65% - Could have been a contender if it wasn’t for the inherent meltability of ice buildings in the desert.

5. Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi
AKA: His Imperial Majesty, Shahanshah (King of Kings), Aryamehr (Light of the Aryans) and Bozorg Arteshtārān (Head of the Warriors) - Shah of Iran 1941-1979
It's just not cricket.
The Shah was the last monarch of Iran, who came to power after Iran was invaded for its oil by Britain and the Soviet Union and he was kept in power by the CIA who overthrew the government to keep the oil flowing in 1953. The Shah ended up running the country as its autocratic ruler as his regime gradually because more and more repressive. It’s no wonder why the Iranians are still just a bit miffed by the experience.
In a classic bit of dictator behavior, during his unpopular reign, he celebrated 2,500 years of continuous monarchy in Iran by throwing a $100 million party.
He went to school in the Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland. The uber-posh school owns a campus in the ski resort Gstaad. The Strokes also went to that school, who knew they were so posh?

There is more info in his skiing prowess in ‘The Life and Times of the Shah by Gholam Reza Afkhami

“He had learned skiing at Le Rosey and back in Tehran, never missed a chance to ski on the rare days snow filled the rather primitive ski slopes of the hills near the city. In the 1940s, he was a role model to the few men and women who skied, seeing him carry his skis on his shoulder walking up the Elahiyah hills by Pahlavi Boulevard. In later years, he frequented the much more advanced ski slopes constructed in Shemshek and Gajereh on the slopes of the Alborz, and in the Alps near his winter cottage in St. Moritz

The Shah at the St. Moritz Butlins

Snowsports Points: 35/50 – Good skier and one that actually went to the trouble of hiking.
Dictator Points: 35/50 - Decent bit of autocratic leadership with a good old fashioned revolution needed to oust him. Great parties.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 70%

4. Kim Jong Il
AKA: Dear Leader - Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, and General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, 1994 to date
Another guy who needs little introduction.
  • His birth was foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow over the mountain and a new star in the heavens. Fact
  • He has a fear of flying so he visits China and Russia in an armored train which he has live lobsters airlifted to every day. Fact
  • He is a great golfer, North Korean state media reports that Kim routinely shoots three or four holes-in-one per round. Fact

But what about his snowsports credentials. The brilliantly named Beat Balzli, wrote this article for Spiegel
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il isn't just playing around with his country's latest products, atom bombs, anymore. He also has a penchant for high-quality German goods.
The order came as a big surprise to the sales staff at the all-terrain vehicle manufacturer Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeuge in Laupheim, Germany. The customer wanted to buy the Model 100, the smallest of Kässbohrer's PistenBully special-purpose vehicles, but with one modification: it had to come with a Mercedes Benz engine.
The southern German company delivered the snow groomer in June 2003, and the customer promptly paid the purchase price of €98,000. Finally, a German shipping company transported the vehicle to a region of North Korea near the Chinese border, where snow is plentiful.
Hardship is a relative term, especially when one considers that the North Korean people spend their lives staggering from one famine to the next. But while bad economic management routinely leads to humanitarian disasters, the diminutive dictator and his sybaritic entourage of obedient party officials have been living it up with imported Western luxury and entertainment goods for years, including the expensive equipment for their very own ski resort.

He has his own private ski resort. Mint

North Korea. Not quite as fun for everyone else.

Snowsports Points: 35/50 – Points for having his own resort, but no one knows if he is any good at skiing.
Dictator Points: 40/50 – A great example of hereditary dictating, looking to implement nuclear Armageddon ASAP.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 75% - Perhaps he thinks that he can save snowsports from the effects of global warming by creating a nuclear winter. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

3. Benito Mussolini
AKA: Il Duce, or, His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire – Leader of Italy 1922-1942
Mussolini liked people to believe he was a superman by wrestling bear cubs, skiing the Alps and piloting his own single engine plane. His “torso of bronze,” on display in the springtime snow proved his fitness.
And Mussolini and his “torso of bronze” can be seen in action in this video.

The story of Mussolini’s demise actually involves a ski resort. Mussolini was overthrown and arrested by his own party when defeat for Italy in WWII became inevitable.
"After his arrest, Mussolini was taken to a ski lodge on Gran Sasso d'Italia in the Apennine mountains about 75 miles north-west of Rome. The lodge was accessible only by a railroad and had been built so recently that it was not marked on military maps or on mountain climbers charts. But German intelligence agents under the direction of SS Captain Otto Skorzeny had learned of Mussolini's whereabouts, and at Hitler's direction a rescue mission was organized.
To determine how safe the landing will be, Skorzeny flew over the Gran Sasso at 15,000 feet in a Heinkel-111. Leaning out the window in a numbing 200-mile-an-hour wind, he took pictures while his friend held tightly to his legs. These pictures showed a spot where they could land their planes.
When Skorzeny and his 90 men swept silently down on the lodge in 12 gliders, they discovered to their great dismay that the meadow had a rapid drop-off at its end. "It was much like the platform for a ski jump," Skorzeny later said. He ordered his pilot to make a "vertical landing" which tore open his flimsy glider but brought it to a halt in less than 30 yards.
Jumping from the plane, Skorzeny and his men swept past shocked guards and without firing a shot made their way to Mussolini. "I knew that my friend Adolf Hitler would not desert me," the old dictator said. Soon a small plane came into the meadow. When Skorzeny and Mussolini climbed in it, the pilot was shocked. With both men in it the plane would probably crash. Yet Skorzeny insisted that they go ahead. The plane bounced along the meadow, brushed off a rock and staggered over the edge of the plateau. It dropped through the thin air, but made it's way to Rome."
From Rome, Mussolini was flown to Vienna and finally to Wolf's lair, Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia.
Hell of a story. Anyway things didn’t turn out all that well after that for the founder of fascism. He became a puppet governor of German occupied Italian territory for another two years before getting captured by partisans before suffering a bad case of death through a good old fashioned dictator lynching
Captain Otto Skorzeny on the other hand became known as the ‘The most dangerous man in Europe’ as a result of this rescue, which is just about the coolest thing someone can be called. After the war be ran a mercenary army before becoming a successful engineering millionaire.
He even looks like the most dangerous man in Europe

Snowsports Points: 40/50 – Video evidence of some shaky skiing but extra points for just being so damn manly.
Dictator Points: 40/50 – As one of the founders of Fascism, he pretty much wrote the book. It just turned out he was not all that good at it.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 80% - An awesome combination of ski resort rescue, topless skiing and lynch mobs.

2. Vladimir Putin
AKA: No fancy names - Former President and current Prime Minister of Russia 1999 to date
Hello sailor
A former member of the KGB, Putin was Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2007 (Hitler was Time magazine’s Person in the year in 1938). Putin's 2006 income totaled 2 million rubles (approximately $80,000) but strangely he has a $60,000 watch 
He has also followed Hitler’s example by leading the successful bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi 
When it comes to sports he shuns the girly approach of Hitler and follows the example of Mussolini. Putin also likes to be seen as a man of action and like Mussolini he is a fan of taking his shirt off, in fact Putin takes things to the max by performing all his sports topless.
I imagine that he dresses like this when he plays Chess as well.
Putin does a get a bit soft when he goes skiing though
You can see why he goes shirtless most of the time when his clothes look this bad.
AKA: Again nothing but interestingly his whole surname is only made up of four letters and it is not possible to create an anagram from it - President of Russia 2008 to date
Medvedev is a devoted fan of English hard rock bands including Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. The first thing Medvedev did as President was appoint Putin as Prime Minister. Medvedev is essentially Putin’s bitch.

And the two of them go skiing together, in matching outfits

Here is a video of the two love birds skiing. If you watch this directly on YouTube you get bombarded with opportunities to buy Russian wives so it’s best to watch it in safety on this page.

That video would have really benefited from a crash section

Snowsports Points: 45/50 – Putin is clearly awesome at all sports, only let down by now skiing with his shirt off like a real man should.

Dictator Points: 40/50 – The whole Putin/Medvedev multiple leader approach is a great ruse but just a little lacking in the dictator stakes.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 85% - The best snowsports dictator buddy team in the business.

1. Gustav Vasa
AKA: Gustav I, Gustav Eriksson, Father of the Nation – King of Sweden 1523-1560
Gustav Vasa was the first monarch of the House of Vasa and founder of Sweden who came to power after leading a rebellion against the Danish. He was an enigmatic person who was referred to as both a liberator of the country and as a tyrannical ruler. Though not as famous as most of his continental contemporaries, he was the first truly autocratic native Swedish sovereign and was a skilled propagandist. Gustav liked to compare himself to Moses.
Gustav has been regarded by some as a power-hungry man who wished to control everything: the Church, the economy, the army and all foreign affairs. But in doing this, he also did manage to unite Sweden, a country that previously had no standardized language, and where individual provinces held a strong regional power. He also laid the foundation for Sweden's professional army that was to make Sweden into a regional superpower in the 17th century.
A Swedish Dictator! Who’d have thought those two things ever went together.
Gustav Vasa skied 90km from Salen to Mora to escape from Danish invaders in 1518 before he rallied the resistance to liberate his country.
Today his journey is celebrated in the annual ski event Vasaloppet, the largest ski event in the world with 15,000 participants that follows the same route.
In an accurate historical reconstruction 15,000 people get chased by the Trojan horse.

Snowsports Points: 45/50 – 90km is no small thing and 15,000 people still follow his example 500 years later only with slightly less at stake and a lot more spandex.
Dictator Points: 45/50 – Old School dictating from a surprising source.
Total Snowsports Dictator Rating: 90% - Sweden, the country that snowsports built.

Extra Bonus Dictator…
Idea for article and weak visual pun supplied by Matt Ware.

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