Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Brrr! Brutal cold raises concerns over Olympics opening ceremony



Brrr! Brutal cold raises concerns over Olympics opening ceremony

Brrr! Brutal cold raises concerns over Olympics opening ceremony

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 today: “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) today 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.

Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai 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.”

Gas heaters and heat pads

Organisers are taking measures to make sure that the athletes and 35,000 spectators at the opening ceremony do not freeze.

They are putting up a windscreen to block the powerful winds and setting up 40 portable gas heaters, along with 27 heating respite areas.

Organisers will also issue survival kits that include a blanket, heating packs for the hands and feet and a heating pad that spectators can sit on.

Ian Chesterman, Australia’s chef de mission, said they had been in talks with their kit manufacturer for more than three years about how to keep their athletes warm.

“While this is the coldest Olympic Games for a while, Australia’s athletes regularly perform and train in equally or colder conditions,” he said. “From memory, Lillehammer in 1994 remains the coldest on record with regular temperatures of minus 25.”

But not everyone is suffering. Some say it is the Winter Olympics, after all, and others are relishing the cold.

Bryce Bennett, an alpine skier for the United States, said: “We’re ski racers, we deal with being cold a lot. It will be interesting how everyone adapts to it.”

Park Hyun-joo, 18, a volunteer, donned ear muffs, scarf, gloves and several layers to ward off the elements.

“It’s cold, especially at night, but I can endure it and it’s our duty to volunteer for the Olympics,” she said stoically.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro