Cold comes to Pyeongchang ahead of Olympics
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The temperature at the Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang was minus-3 Fahrenheit (minus-16 Celsius) when many athletes and officials woke up. Sidewalks in the nearby mountain cluster were sparsely populated all day.
Those who did venture outside layered clothing under bulky jackets and stepped over icy mounds of old snow in sturdy boots. Olympic volunteers stationed at bus stops crowded around patio heaters. Few tourists appeared willing to brave the elements.
Competitors and spectators can't stay inside through the entire Pyeongchang Games though. And there's concern about their well-being with the wind chill at the Olympic Stadium projected at 14 degrees F (minus-10 C) for the opening ceremony on Friday.
Defending Olympic champion Kamil Stoch showed why he's a strong candidate to win another gold medal in ski jumping at the Pyeongchang Games.
Stoch finished first in a training run for Saturday's normal hill final and also had a second- and third-place finish as the athletes got their first chance to test the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center on Wednesday.
The Polish ski jumper won both the normal and large hill events at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has been in peak form heading into this year's games.
He won his second straight Four Hills tournament in Bischofshofen, Austria, on Jan. 6 and became only the second ski jumper in the long history of the sport to win all four stages of the prestigious event.
He is currently first in the overall World Cup standings with four titles this season.
Andreas Wellinger of Germany, another contender for gold, also had a first-place finish in one of six practice sessions on Wednesday.
IOC President Thomas Bach is hoping for a repeat of the 2000 Olympics, when North and South Korean athletes made an emotional entry together into Sydney's Olympic stadium.
As an International Olympic Committee member, Bach says he traveled to North Korea prior to the 2000 Games. He described how talks there were bogged down by protocol, details, and large doses of tedium.
"Some moments were terrible," he says.
As he tells the story, Bach perks up as he recalls how — at the last moment — South and North Koreans "took each other by the hands and marched into the stadium. This is the Olympic Games. I guess you will see the same here on Friday."
The IOC is counting on it.
IOC President Thomas Bach won't say what he thinks will happen with appeals filed by Russian athletes trying to gain entry into the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Two groups of Russians, 47 in all, have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A decision is expected Thursday from world sports' highest court, but it could come as late as Friday, just hours before the Olympics open.
The IOC expects 168 Russian athletes to compete under the neutral banner of "Olympic Athletes from Russia." Many more have been barred for the games for doping or suspicion of doping.
"We think we have good arguments," Bach told reporters. "And now the procedure is on-going, so I will not speculate on the outcome."
Pope Francis is praising the decision of North and South Korea to compete alongside each other at the Winter Olympics, saying it shows that conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and mutual respect.
Francis sent a special greeting and blessing to athletes and organizers of the Pyeongchang Olympics at the end of his weekly Wednesday general audience. He says the traditional Olympic truce "takes on special importance this year" with the decision by the two Koreas, which will compete together in women's hockey and march together at the opening ceremony.
He says the move shows that sports can promote peace.
Francis has frequently warned about the threat posed by the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula, and has demanded complete nuclear disarmament. He said the Holy See would support any initiative that favors peace and encounter among peoples.
The Pyeongchang Organizing Committee is offering volunteers and staff unsold tickets for Thursday's curling and ski jumping events.
Committee manager Ji Young Lee says 94 percent of tickets for Thursday's curling events have already been sold. She says the offer of free tickets gives volunteers who are normally working a chance to experience the Olympics in a different way.
Lee didn't immediately have information about tickets sold for Thursday's ski jumping events.
Lee says overall ticket sales were at 77.3 percent for the entire Pyeongchang Olympic schedule as of Monday. She said that's up from 75 percent for the Sochi Olympics at approximately the same time in 2014.
Two leading speedskaters are among six Russian athletes who will miss the Pyeongchang Olympics after their appeals were delayed until after the games.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it won't hear the case of the six athletes, who claim the International Olympic Committee unfairly excluded them over past doping offenses.
They include Pavel Kulizhinikov, a former world champion in short-track speedskating who was banned from 2012 through 2014 after testing positive for the banned substance methylhexanamine. Also among the six is speedskater Denis Yuskov, who served a ban for marijuana, and the biathletes Irina Starykh and Alexander Loginov, who returned in 2016 from bans for the blood-booster EPO.
The IOC ruled in December that Russians who served doping bans in the past weren't eligible for Pyeongchang under its vetting procedure.
The court is hearing cases involving 45 other Russians and two coaches in time for the Olympics.
This will be an unusual Olympics for Russian athletes, who are being forced to compete in neutral uniforms with no national insignia as punishment for doping offenses in Sochi in 2014.
In Friday's opening ceremony, they will march under the Olympic flag in red and gray tracksuits with an "Olympic Athlete from Russia" emblem. If they win medals, they'll stand under the Olympic flag while the Olympic anthem plays.
The 168-person not-quite-Russian team is still one of the largest in Pyeongchang. They'll wear hastily redesigned or repurposed uniforms.
To even get here, they had to pass an International Olympic Committee vetting process, with athletes' names checked against data of possible past Russian drug use and cover-ups.
South Korea says the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be part of the high-level delegation coming to the South for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
South Korea's Unification Ministry said North Korea informed it Wednesday that Kim Yo Jong would be part of the delegation led by the country's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam.
Seoul previously said the delegation would arrive Friday.
Kim Yo Jong was promoted by her brother last year to a new post within the North's ruling party that analysts said showed that her activities are more substantive and more important than previously thought.
A 229-member strong, all-female cheering section has arrived from North Korea for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The squad, which features women chosen for their youth, good looks and enthusiasm, has been allowed to root for the North's much smaller contingent of athletes as part of a last-minute arrangement between Pyongyang and Seoul.
Both sides are hoping to use participation by the North in the games to ease tensions that have been exceptionally high over the past year amid North Korea's stepped-up missile launches and nuclear weapons' development.
Arriving with the cheering squad was North Korea's Sports Minister Kim Il Guk, Olympic committee officials and a demonstration taekwondo team that will perform before the opening ceremony on Friday and again later in Seoul.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has adjourned for the day without ruling on appeals filed by Russian athletes who want to compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The court did not decide on an appeal involving 32 Russian athletes, not did it start hearing a second case involving 13 athletes and two coaches. It will reconvene Thursday at noon local time, the day before the opening ceremony.
The International Olympic Committee turned the Russians down during a vetting process that involved analyzing data about alleged doping in previous years.
Russian athletes who have appealed include Viktor Ahn, a six-time Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating, as well as cross-country ski gold medalist Alexander Legkov and skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov.
The IOC Athletes' Commission is trying to assure the 3,000 Olympians entered in Pyeongchang that they will be competing against "clean athletes."
This stems from the chaos around Russia, which has seen many of its athletes banned from the Olympics for doping.
In an open letter on Wednesday to Olympians, the IOC Athletes' Commission says "we want to give you the assurance that every measure has been taken to ensure that you will be competing against clean athletes."
The International Olympic Committee is expecting 168 Russians to compete in Pyeongchang under the neutral banner of "Olympic Athletes From Russia." Dozens of Russian athletes have failed to pass IOC vetting.
The letter says "we believe it is important to respect and treat each of these athletes equally."
It also encouraged athletes to avoid distractions, saying, "We believe it is time for you to focus on your sport and what you have worked so hard for over the last few years."
Cases of norovirus at the Pyeongchang Games have officials scrambling on the eve of the biggest event in South Korea in years.
Olympics organizers say the norovirus spread began Sunday when private security workers staying in the Jinbu area of Pyeongchang started complaining of headaches, stomach pain and diarrhea.
About 1,200 people were kept in their rooms during tests for the contagious virus. Games organizers said Wednesday that 32 workers are being treated and are in quarantine.
Because the sick workers handled security, 900 military personnel have been brought in to work at 20 venues until the sick and sequestered can return to work.
Two Olympic gold medalists are among the latest group of 15 Russians who have launched an appeal seeking late entry to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport says the 13 athletes and two coaches include cross-country ski gold medalist Alexander Legkov and skeleton gold medalist Alexander Tretiakov, as well as speedskating silver medalist Olga Fatkulina.
They were all banned last year over doping at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, but those verdicts were overturned at the CAS last week. They're now seeking to force the IOC to invite them to the Pyeongchang Games.
The court is already hearing a separate appeal by 32 Russians who were denied invites on what the IOC said was evidence linking them to past doping.
The court didn't say how quickly it will issue decisions.
Fifteen more Russians have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, seeking to be admitted to the Pyeongchang Olympics.
They join 32 Russians who appealed a day earlier. John Coates, who heads the court, says decisions on some appeals are expected Wednesday.
Coates gave few details and did not give names of the Russians who appealed Wednesday. The games start Friday.
The 32 who appealed on Tuesday failed to pass mandatory International Olympic Committee vetting, which was imposed as a result of Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee expects 168 Russian athletes to compete under the neutral banner of "Olympic Athletes From Russia." Hundreds more have been barred, and many have gone to court seeking entry, causing last-minute chaos.
Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics say they're having no problems raising cash.
International Olympic Committee member John Coates, head of the IOC coordination commission for Tokyo, says local organizers have raised $2.9 billion in national sponsorship money.
He provided the update to about 100 IOC committee members gathered in Pyeongchang for meetings prior to the games there, which start Friday.
Coates called the money-raising effort "extraordinarily successful." He says Tokyo now has 47 local sponsors, and this excludes long-term IOC sponsors like Bridgestone, Panasonic and Toyota.
The sponsorship money will help fund the $5.5 billion local operating budget, which Coates says is not expected to need public money.
The total cost of preparing the games is about $20 billion, with the rest of the money coming for the city of Tokyo and the national government.
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics open in two days, but the issue of which Russians are in — and which are out — is dominating the agenda of IOC President Thomas Bach.
As Bach presides Wednesday over meetings with roughly 100 IOC members, the Court of Arbitration for Sport — sport's top legal body — is expected to decide appeals by 32 Russian athletes seeking spots in the Games.
The 32 failed to pass mandatory International Olympic Committee vetting, imposed as a result of Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee expects 168 Russian athletes to compete under the neutral banner of "Olympic Athletes From Russia." Hundreds more have been barred, and many have gone to court seeking entry and causing last-minute chaos.