Saturday, February 6, 2010
Final preparations on IOC's agenda
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- With one eye on the weather, the IOC opens a series of meetings Sunday to examine the last-minute preparations for the Vancouver Winter Games and deal with doping and ethics cases and future Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee executive board's two-day meeting comes amid unseasonably warm conditions that have led to special contingency measures to protect the snow at the snowboard and freestyle skiing venue at nearby Cypress Mountain.
The IOC is monitoring the weather situation but remains confident the games, which open next Friday, won't suffer.
"We are in a world with uncertain meteorology -- we have to adapt to it," IOC president Jacques Rogge said recently. "There is a permanent contingency planning for the entire duration of the games. If there would be too much snow or not enough snow, we will act on that."
John Furlong, leader of Vancouver organizing committee VANOC, will report on the weather contingencies and other planning issues to the IOC board on Monday. He'll get another chance to deliver a progress update to the full IOC session, which meets from Wednesday through Friday.
Local organizers said Saturday they will eliminate two days of halfpipe training at Cypress Mountain to protect the competition area. Athletes now will have three days of training instead of five. The men's halfpipe is scheduled for Feb. 17, with the women the following day.
Cypress, which is just north of Vancouver, has experienced the warmest January on record, forcing organizers to bring in snow from across the province. There is plenty of snow, meanwhile, in the Whistler area where the Alpine and Nordic events will take place.
Away from Vancouver matters, the IOC board will also examine a new U.S. doping case that could lead to the stripping of gold medals from the women's 4x400 relay team at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Crystal Cox, who ran in the preliminaries, admitted to using anabolic steroids and accepted a four-year suspension and disqualification of her results from 2001 to 2004, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The IOC is expected to set up a disciplinary commission on the case. Such a process has previously led the IOC to remove national relay teams of medals retroactively -- including three U.S. teams from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Under international rules, an entire relay team can be disqualified because of the doping of one member, even an alternate. Russia would move from silver to gold in the 2004 relay if the U.S. team is disqualified.
The executive board is expected on Sunday to act on a report of its ethics commission and reinstate South Korea's Lee Kun-hee as a full member. Lee, the convicted ex-Samsung chairman, voluntarily gave up his IOC rights after being indicted in 2008 in a financial and tax evasion case.
The South Korean government pardoned Lee last year, clearing the way for his return to the IOC and help push the country's latest bid to host the Winter Olympics. After two straight unsuccessful bids, Pyeongchang is vying for the 2018 Games along with Munich and Annecy, France. The IOC will vote next year.
Lee's reinstatement would follow the pattern of previous IOC ethics cases. France's Guy Drut was provisionally suspended as a member in 2005 after being convicted in a party-financing trial. But he was reinstated a year later after being pardoned by then French President Jacques Chirac.
The IOC is also set to review the case of Kuwait's national Olympic committee, which was suspended by the international body last month because of political interference by the government.
The IOC says Kuwait failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for amending a law that allows the Gulf state to interfere in elections of sports organizations.
Later next week, the IOC general assembly will receive progress reports from organizers of the 2012 London Olympics, 2014 Winter Games in Sochi Russia and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
On Wednesday, the IOC will vote on the host city for the 2014 Youth Olympics. The finalists are Nanjing, China, and Poznan, Poland. The Mexican city of Guadalajara withdrew last month due to financial pressures.
The inaugural Youth Games -- for athletes aged 14-18 -- will take place this year in Singapore from Aug. 14-26.