(ATR) Lindsey Vonn and many of the world’s top Alpine skiers question the IOC decision to bring the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing.
Lindsey Vonn speaks to reporters in Soelden, Austria. (ATR)
“To be honest, I’m quite perplexed by some of the choices in new Winter Olympics venues,” Vonn told Around the Rings
“Alpine skiing is one of the biggest events in the Winter Olympics and to be choosing sites that have little to no ski resorts is quite perplexing,” said Vonn, a four-time overall World Cup champion and the 2010 Olympic downhill champion.
Canadian racer Dustin Cook echoed similar thoughts
“It seems very strange to me, I think a lot of us on the winter side of things wonder how and why are you going to have a place that doesn’t have real winter or snow have the Olympics,” Cook said about Beijing. “It just doesn’t make any sense to us, I just don’t get it.”
“If they throw loads of money into it and pull it off than great, but everyone is kind of questioning if they can pull it off,” Cook said.
Vonn added: “I have never been Beijing, so I can’t really speak to the mountains or venues, but it’s a shame that a place like Oslo, that has plenty of snow and everything there, can't have the Winter Olympics.”
Scenic Soelden, Austria home to FIS World Cup this weekend (ATR)
Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, a three-time Olympian and one of the most respected athletes on tour, conveyed his opinion about the current state of the Winter Olympics.
“The citizens of Norway decided they don’t want to have the Winter Olympics, it’s not the Winter Olympics, they don’t want to have the IOC to demand what the Winter Olympics should be like,” Svindal said.
The skiers’ outspoken comments came in Soelden, Austria leading up to this weekend’s International Ski Federation Audi World Cup opening races.
The proposed venue for Alpine ski events in 2022 is Yanqing, located approximately 80 kilometers north of Beijing. An Olympic downhill course, new racing center and related infrastructure will all need to be developed from scratch. Adding to the challenge: the region receives virtually no natural snow.
Vonn, who is unlikely to race Saturday while still recovering from her latest ankle injury admitted that racing on man-made snow isn’t a problem for racers. However, she said it could have other negative effects.
Norwegians Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal speak with host Marco Buechel. (ATR)
“I actually prefer it because it is more compact, however from a spectators point of view and also the general Olympic vibe, it would be awkward to not have snow in the Winter Olympics,” Vonn said.
Svindal had harsher words for man-made snow.
“The Winter Olympics is the best marketing we have for our sport and marketing our sport without actual snow, it’s not going to be the same,” he said.
“I’m in favor of making every sport global, having races in Korea and Japan like we’re having this year, but you have to have races and winter sport in the mountains,” Svindal said.
“For our sport to grow you need to hit other markets and for sure Asia is going to be important for us in years to come,” said Svindal’s Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud.
“The Winter Olympics should be held somewhere where there is no issue of having downhill and super-G, with downhill being one of the most popular events.
A ski lift in Beijing with little snowfall. (ATR)
“The IOC needs to look at where they put it, so to speak,” Jansrud said.
FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper and Austrian Ski Team head Peter Schrockschnadel recently suggested that the Olympic downhill – traditionally one of the marquee events of the Winter Games and also among the most difficult to contend – could potentially be eliminated from the sports program come Beijing 2022.
The immense challenge and concern over sculpting and staging a competitive, exciting and sufficient downhill in China likely triggered their comments.
But skiers offered a different prediction.
“I think it will never be thrown out of the Olympic program,” Svindal. “For sure [this is a concern] if you keep giving Winter Olympics to places without [high] mountains.”
“It’s weird and the organizations should make all of the Olympic disciplines the way that they deserve it,” said Austrian veteran Liz Goergl.
Johan Fliasch, the CEO of Head Skis, the leading brand among many of circuit’s top racers was highly critical of the speculation.
Alpine skiers take selfie at Head Skis press conference. (ATR)
“It’s probably the stupidest, most absurd thing I’ve ever heard,” Fliasch said to open the Head Skis news conference.
“I do question the IOC’s thinking sometimes – I heard that it was a fait accompli even before the votes were cast which kind of puts a doubt into the process which the Games were decided,” Fliasch said referring to the election of Beijing over Almaty, 44-40, this July in Kuala Lumpur.
Fliasch did note that the Winter Olympics in China could be good for the ski and hotel industries.
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein, whose parents both were Olympic skiers, conveyed her concerns on social media:
“In my opinion, we should not discuss whether it is possible to execute the Olympic downhill race, but why Olympic Winter Games are given to a place where there is no donwnhill track.”
Below her post, Weirather included the hashtags #PyeongChang2018 #Beijing2022
The 2015-16 World Cup season kicks off with a women’s giant slalom on Saturday, followed by a men’s race in the same event on Sunday.
The opening race will be contested without two-time defending overall World Cup champion Anna Fenninger of Austria, who tore ligaments training in Soelden on Wednesday. She is likely out for the season.
Another former World Cup overall champion, Tina Maze of Slovenia, is taking the season off, while Vonn is also unlikely to compete.
Written by Brian Pinelli
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