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

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting