IOC downplays concern on Pyeongchang preparations

March, 19, 2015
Mar 19

IOC, Pyeongchang, 2018 Winter OlympicsAP Photo/Ahn Young-joonGunilla Lindberg, left, head of the IOC coordination commission for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Cho Yang-ho, president of the 2018 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, smile during a press conference in Gangneung, South Korea.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- An International Olympic Committee inspection team has downplayed worries about the pace of preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and insisted there will be no venue changes.

Gunilla Lindberg, who heads the IOC's coordination commission for the Pyeongchang Games, said Thursday that organizers have made significant progress in the construction of the venues and arranging the test events that begin next year. She added that organizers must show more urgency in advancing operational planning and refining budgets.

To compensate for South Korea's lack of experience in hosting large winter sports competitions, Lindberg said international experts will be coming to Pyeongchang in the coming months to help organizers arrange the test events and help in other administrative tasks.

Organizers have been facing pressure from local groups to spread the games outside of Pyeongchang to reduce costs, despite the IOC insisting that the current venue plan is final.

The organizers are also having difficulty attracting sponsors, with only five companies having joined the domestic sponsorship program.

Lindberg and Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director for the Olympic Games, were part of the delegation that concluded a three-day inspection trip in Gangneung, a city near Pyeongchang that will host some Olympic competitions in 2018, including ice hockey, speedskating and figure skating.

"The first test events are less than a year away and POCOG (Pyeongchang's organizing committee) and its partners will need to focus simultaneously on multiple projects over the next year in order to deliver them successfully," Lindberg said.

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Pyeongchang to start test events in 2016

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16

SEOUL, South Korea -- Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have set up a special body in charge of arranging test events for the games, addressing one of the major concerns raised by international sports officials.

The organizing committee says Monday it created the "Pyeongchang Winter Series Foundation" to run the sports test events that will be crucial in evaluating venues and conditions ahead of the games.

Gian-Franco Kasper, head of international ski federation FIS, recently expressed concern that test events would not be ready for next year. The IOC has also pushed South Korean organizers to speed up preparations.

Pyeongchang says 28 test events will be held between February 2016 and April 2017.

Organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho says "there isn't much time left" and "now it is time for all of us to come together and gear up for games preparations."

Berlin or Hamburg? Germany to decide for 2024

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16

FRANKFURT, Germany -- German Olympic officials are meeting to decide whether to choose Berlin or Hamburg as their candidate for the 2024 Games.

The eight-member board of the national Olympic committee will announce its recommendation later Monday.

The decision is expected to be ratified Saturday at the committee's general assembly.

Both cities presented their case over the weekend. The committee also consulted with German sports federations before talking to representatives from sport, politics, industry, church and culture on Monday.

Hamburg has more popular support than Berlin, but will need to build more facilities. Berlin already has most of the sports infrastructure in place.

Boston and Rome have already announced bids for the 2024 Games. Paris is also expected to join the field.

The deadline for submission of bids to the IOC is Sept. 15. The host city will be selected in 2017.

Olympic champ Lizzy Yarnold takes skeleton world title

March, 7, 2015
Mar 7
Lizzy Yarnold, Skeleton, world championshipAP Photo/Jens MeyerOlympic gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain held on to her early-round lead to win the first skeleton world title of her career on Saturday.
WINTERBERG, Germany -- Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Britain clinched her first skeleton world championship title by holding off home favorite Jacqueline Loelling on Saturday.

Yarnold, who was fastest in Friday's opening runs, maintained her dominance by completing the quickest times across all four for a combined time of 3 minutes, 49.95 seconds.

Yarnold beat Loelling, the German two-time junior world champion, by 0.67 seconds and Canada's Elizabeth Vathje by 0.79.

Vathje's bronze was Canada's eighth medal by a female skeleton athlete in the twelve world championships since 2000.

Another Canadian, Jane Channell, was fourth -- ahead of Germany's Tina Hermann.

Martins Dukurs won the men's title on Friday. It was the Latvian's third skeleton world championship title after wins in 2011 and 2012.

Anne O'Shea was the top American finisher in 18th place.

Martins Dukurs wins third skeleton world championship

March, 6, 2015
Mar 6
Martins DukursAP Photo/Jens MeyerMartins Dukurs of Latvia starts his third run of the men's skeleton race at the Skeleton World Championships in Winterberg, Germany. He held on to oust Olympic champion Alexander Tretiakov.
WINTERBERG, Germany -- Martins Dukurs of Latvia won his third skeleton world championship title on Friday by holding off Olympic champion and holder Alexander Tretiakov of Russia.

Dukurs, who also won the title in 2011 and 2012, beat the Russian by 0.69 seconds.

Tomass Dukurs took the bronze medal, 1.52 seconds behind his younger brother.

Earlier, Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold of Britain took a slim lead midway through the women's competition.

After two of four heats, Elisabeth Vathje of Canada was 0.07 seconds behind.

Junior world champion Jacqueline Loelling of Germany and Jane Channell of Canada were tied for third, 0.39 seconds back, going into the final day of the competition on Saturday.

Germany's Tina Hermann is close behind in fifth, 0.52 seconds back.

Megan Henry and Annie O'Shea were the best American finishers at 17th and 19th place with two heats to go in the competition.