LET THE COLD TIMES ROLL

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION ASIA - NI­COLE JEF­FERY

Some­thing you might not know is that the Win­ter Olympics are more fun than the sum­mer edi­tion. They are smaller, more in­ti­mate, the venues more pic­turesque, the sports more spec­tac­u­lar and the ath­letes more out there, re­flect­ing the ex­treme na­ture of most of their pur­suits.

The Sum­mer Olympics are deeply em­bed­ded in Aus­tralia’s psy­che af­ter more than a cen­tury of wel­com­ing home gen­er­a­tions of in­trepid men and women who have gone off and con­quered the world.

By con­trast, Aus­tralia didn’t win its first Win­ter Olympics medal un­til 1994 and waited un­til 2002 for gold, when speed-skater Stephen Brad­bury made the break­through in the most ex­traor­di­nary cir­cum­stances.

So we are pretty new to this win­ter caper, but next year’s PyeongChang Games should be on our radar, shap­ing up as the best in at least a decade. Van­cou­ver did a mighty job in 2010 but events were marred by un­sea­son­able weather. Sochi, in Rus­sia in 2014, also had weather is­sues (an on­go­ing theme for fu­ture Win­ter Games hosts as cli­mate change bites). There were also cul­tural bar­ri­ers that made at­tend­ing dif­fi­cult.

But South Korea is suit­ably cold in win­ter and the Games give every sign of be­ing well-or­gan­ised. Ath­letes who vis­ited for this year’s test events gave glow­ing re­views of the venues; food is good, peo­ple are kind to strangers and trans­port will be ef­fi­cient.

A high-speed train will ferry spec­ta­tors from Seoul in the west and Gangne­ung in the east to a moun­tain hub be­fore they are dis­persed to skiing and slid­ing venues. Skat­ing events will be con­tained in an at­trac­tive Olympic park in Gangne­ung, a well-known sea­side re­sort where ac­com­mo­da­tion is plen­ti­ful. How­ever, all roads will lead to Phoenix Park at Bok­wang, venue for freestyle skiing and snow­board­ing.

The Aus­tralian team has just come off a record sea­son, win­ning 40 medals across world cham­pi­onship and world cup events. Half-pipe snow­boarder Scotty James and moguls skier Britt Cox will go to the Games as reign­ing world cham­pi­ons. Vet­eran win­ter-watch­ers re­port there isn’t much choice of ac­com­mo­da­tion in the moun­tain re­gion right now and it is ex­pen­sive, but they ex­pect that sit­u­a­tion to ease as the Games ap­proach.

Ni­cole Jef­fery has at­tended the past five Win­ter Olympics and the past seven Sum­mer Olympics.

Kwan­dong Hockey Cen­tre, one of the venues for the 2018 Win­ter Olympics

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