By another unfortunate coincidence the Olympic Games took place in Austria exactly at the moment that rioting swept parts of East Africa, taking a toll of Ismaili lives and property. Ismaili leaders showered Karim in Innsbruck with cables asking advice on whether to try to hold on in Africa or to return to India and Pakistan. Other Ismailis flew to Innsbruck to consult Karim. "I am not looking for excuses, but I was not psychologically prepared for the Olympics. I did not have my mind 100% on the races," says Karim. In a practice run Karim skied off the treacherous downhill run—the so-called piste de la mort—into the branches of a tree. He was lucky to escape serious injury. When autograph hunters rushed at him down below, Karim tried to get away—by skiing backward. It turned out the fall had torn a big hole in the seat of his pants. At Innsbruck, Karim placed 53rd out of 96 in the giant slalom and 59th out of 84 in the downhill. "It was," as he puts it, "respectable if not glorious."
Traveling from one ski race to another, Karim clocks 12,000 miles every winter in his red Volkswagen. For anyone unaccustomed to icy Alpine roads it is a frightening experience to drive with him. But Karim has never had a serious accident, either in a car or on skis. The one time he broke his leg it was high-jumping. Prudently, the Prince skips certain downhill races if they look "really dangerous." "As Aga Khan, I cannot afford to risk my life on a piste," he says. However, the speeds at which he habitually drives a car—90 to 145 miles an hour, road permitting—strike many as "really dangerous."
This summer he had a minor, but ominous, accident on the way to the horse races at St. Cloud. It occurred only a quarter mile from the scene of his father's fatal crash. But Karim has great confidence in his driving ability, and in the quality of his cars. He changes them often. Recently he sold his Lancia and the two Maseratis. He replaced them with a new Maserati and his favorite, a dark-blue 5.7-liter Iso-Rivolta.
Karim is going to keep driving as he pleases, but he says he will pass up the top ski races next year. "I've hung up my racing skis forever," he insists. "I no longer have the time." There are a lot of Alpine skiers who doubt this. They know Karim's passion for the sport. What they do not know is that the ski-loving Aga Khan has just discovered a stimulating new activity: flying. "Piloting," he says, "that's what I'm going to take up next. A man must not stand still." A mistake which this prince seems unlikely to make.