"So, how much difference is there among the top 40 teams in the country? Not very much, the way I figure it."
There is a lot of discussion going on about the role the Federal Government should take in the development of amateur sport in this country. One point of view is forcefully expressed by F. Warren Hellman, a New York investment banker and president of the U.S. Ski Educational Foundation, which is responsible for the financial well-being of the ski teams that represent the U.S. in international competition, including the Olympics.
"Quite frankly," says Hellman, "I start with the assumption that the Communists are right in saying that a nation's sports strength is a direct reflection of the viability of its political system. I want to see the U.S. do well in international sports to prove the strength of our system. But I think we should do well with a format that fits within the American system. If the free enterprise system works at all, it should work with sports, too. If private industry is supposedly the answer to problems in other sections of our society and economy, why should we have to turn to the government when it comes to amateur sports?"
Hellman's remarks are pertinent because of a remarkable deal he helped bring about. The International Paper Company, owner of a $1.5 million tract on the lower slopes of Vermont's Stratton Mountain, has given that land (which includes 1,023 acres of Stratton's well-used ski trails) to the U.S. ski team. The Stratton Corporation, which runs the ski resort, used to rent the land from International Paper. Now it will have a 99-year lease with the ski team, which is guaranteed a tax-free annual income. While this amounts to only $50,000 a year, less than [1/20]th of the $1.4 million the team needs to function, the idea of direct philanthropic support of a sport by a company, without advertising or promotional tie-ins, is what makes the arrangement so interesting.
"In the past," says Hellman, "it was hard for a corporation to separate its contributions to sport from the advertising value involved. This concept—viewing a specific sport as a charity and contributing to it as one might to the United Fund—is relatively new. Possibly it is the answer to financing sports—and possibly it will demonstrate that the U.S. doesn't have to follow the Communist system of government control to develop athletes to prove that our system is the best in the world."