Winter Olympics Sites Should Be Cold—But Not This Cold

S. Korea officials worry roofless arena will leave spectators for 2018 Games freezing and miserable
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2017 11:10 AM CST
The Pyeongchang stadium, still under construction in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Nov. 25, 2017.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

(Newser) – What may soon become the next Olympic sport: extreme spectating. At least, that's what organizers for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea are worried about during the opening and closing ceremonies in February, each expected to last between four and five hours. Reuters has glimpsed an internal document outlining the organizing committee's concerns, which revolve around the fact that Pyeongchang's main stadium has no roof and the wind chill is expected to make it feel like it's about 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Among the world luminaries who may be freezing their butts off if they accept President Moon Jae-in's invitation to attend: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. "This is a very serious issue … [that's] creating a headache to not only the organizers but the presidential office," says a local lawmaker.

South Korea made the apparently ill-advised decision to build the $58 million arena sans roof to cut costs and speed up construction, and now it's left organizers scrambling for ideas on how to keep the audience warm and safe, including expedited security checks, more windscreens set up around the stadium, and distributed hot packs and blankets. Xi, Abe, and more than 150 other VIPs will get plusher, bigger blankets than regular spectators, a committee official tells Reuters. There's also mention of pushing "audience participation" to keep people moving, though details are vague. Global News notes that for the last two Winter Olympics, in Sochi and Vancouver, organizers feared the opposite: that it would be too mild for snow. But in this case, "the cold could ruin the entire opening party," a ruling party official says. "The fate of the event is down to … Mother Nature."

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