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Brutal cold raises concerns over Olympics opening ceremony

  • Peter Stebbings

    Agence France-Presse

Pyeongchang, South Korea | Mon, February 5, 2018 | 06:17 pm
Brutal cold raises concerns over Olympics opening ceremony Winter view of ski resort in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Shutterstock/File)

Freezing weather at the Winter Olympics threatens to force some athletes and staff to pull out of Friday's opening ceremony as Pyeongchang shivers in temperatures plunging to minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Forget Russian doping, North Korea and US speed queen Lindsey Vonn: much of the talk among those arriving in South Korea this week is the brutal cold.

The Pyeongchang Games are shaping up to be one of the coldest Olympics ever.

Italy are among the countries fearing the dangerous effects of the big chill and are advising their competitors to ensure they are moving at all times during the traditional curtainraiser on Friday.

Doctors with the Italian team have ordered coaches and staff with heart problems or diabetes to keep in the warm instead -- the stadium for the opening ceremony is open to the elements with no roof.

New Zealand are taking no chances and Peter Wardell, their chef de mission, admitted on Monday: "We are a little trepidatious about the opening ceremony, which is going to be at night, and how we are all going to keep warm if it's going to be these sorts of temperatures.

"They tell us it's likely to be minus eight, minus 10, which is actually quite warm in comparison (to today).

"But it's still a big ask to have athletes standing outside and then sitting for at least an hour and a half in the cold."

He added: "Quite a few (Kiwi athletes) may decide they don't want to march, particularly those competing really soon after."

The mercury dipped to minus 13 degrees Celsius ( 9F ) on Monday early evening and was set to go as low as minus 20 into early Tuesday.

That would put Pyeongchang on a par with parts of Siberia.

Winter athletes are used to being exposed to the cold, but even some of them say they are feeling the effects with the vicious wind making for a punishing climate.

Noriaki Kasai, the Japanese ski jumper, said: "I don't think the cold will be a problem while I'm jumping because it's just for a short time.

"The scariest bit will be the opening ceremony. I'll have to stick heat patches all over my body for that."

 

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