Concern grows over delays for Pyeongchang Alpine test event

December 18, 2015

VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) Delays in gondola construction for the 2018 Olympic Alpine skiing test event in South Korea are starting to worry the International Ski Federation.

With little snow for now in Pyeongchang, a final decision on the races won't be made until Jan. 20.

''They have some delays,'' FIS World Cup director Markus Waldner said. ''The concrete was the problem. They made some mistakes in the construction of the concrete.

''I heard (Wednesday) that the snow-making system started to work,'' Waldner added. ''But you cannot push the button if (it's too warm). So they're struggling with the weather also.''

A men's World Cup downhill and super-G are scheduled to be held at the Jeongseon resort on Feb. 6-7.

FIS technical expert Gunter Hujara has inspected the venue three times since September and will make the final decision.

Waldner said the races could be moved to Saalbach, Austria, in case South Korean organizers can't pull them off but Austrian winter sports federation director Hans Pum said there's not enough time to organize the event.

''You cannot organize a downhill in two weeks in this (period),'' Pum said Friday at a World Cup super-G in Val Gardena. ''(Saalbach) has asked but we organize the races, not Saalbach. This is another question. Nobody knows who pays for the races. We don't have the money for the races.''

FIS also had trouble convincing Pyeongchang that they need to have helicopters at the races in case of medical emergencies

''We had a long discussion,'' Waldner said. ''No helicopter means no race for us. Our president informed them because they tried to offer us ambulances and so on. No, downhill World Cup needs two helicopters. This is a must. No helicopter, no race.''

A Far East Cup race is scheduled as a trial run in Jeongseon on Jan. 23.

''That is important to get some rhythm,'' Waldner said.

''The crew is one part of the puzzle then we need the gondola because we cannot walk up there. Then we need snow-making system. And then of course the entire medical system,'' Waldner said. ''There are a lot of pieces.''

Waldner said Pyeongchang organizers have provided assurances that they will reimburse teams for lost expenses in case the races are canceled but that hasn't satisfied U.S. ski team men's head coach Sasha Rearick.

''Who's going to reimburse me for my time to organize for 40 people to go there?'' Rearick said, noting that the planning involves not only air tickets and hotels but also complicated cargo reservations. ''We're rolling the dice right now one way or the other. Some teams have gone ahead and bought everything.

''The way this is going down right now is not how we proceed normally.''

Athletes have also been left guessing which course they will be racing on for valuable World Cup points.

''I hope we can ski in Korea and try this hill, but I don't know what the chances are for that. I'm not hearing good things,'' said 2014 Olympic downhill champion Matthias Mayer of Austria. ''The only thing I know is nothing is sure.''

Mayer swept the downhill and super-G races in Saalbach last season.

''If there is winter, if there is snow, if there are mountains, then I think any place is perfect for the Winter Games,'' Mayer said. ''But if there is no snow, no mountains, then in my opinion there shouldn't be Winter Olympics.''

Two-time overall World Cup winner Aksel Lund Svindal also wasn't sure what the status was.

''All I know is that we're not sure if we're going or not,'' Svindal said. ''I have heard that they will make it, they won't make it.''


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