LET THE COLD TIMES ROLL
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