“Concerns of hypothermia at Winter Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies. No measures in place to deal with cold snap.” (Newsis, Nov. 4, 2017)
In scenes reminiscent of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, which critics have slammed in advance as “too hot,” South Korean media have voiced concern that the opposite might happen at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, which open in February next year.
On Nov. 4, a concert was held at the newly-built Olympic Stadium to mark D-100 to the games.
According to Korea Meteorological Agency (KMA), temperatures had dropped to 6.9 degrees Celsius by 8 p.m., feeling several degrees lower due to the windchill factor.
Media reports were quick to blame organizers of the games for failing to protect spectators from the cold, pointing out that the flashy new stadium, to be used for the opening and closing ceremonies, lacked a roof. During the concert in Pyeongchang, paramedics were dispatched because several people were reportedly showing signs of hypothermia.
Olympic stadia in both Sochi and Vancouver sported roofs. Newsis lamented the ruthless temperatures in the roofless Pyeongchang stadium. “Due to the assumption that the stadium will be demolished after the games, there was a reduction in its construction budget and no roof was built. Spectators will have no choice but to endure long and painful periods without shelter from the cold, rain or snow.”
Nancy Park, a spokesperson at the Pyeongchang Olympic Committee (POCOG), told Korea Exposé, “We are aware of the cold weather-related issues and are fully prepared.”
“Prior to the games, wind shields will be installed at the Olympic Stadium,” she said. “We plan to provide spectators with items such as blankets, hand warmers, cushions and raincoats to protect them from the cold, and are currently exploring other options.”
Responding to allegations that the roof had been scrapped due to budget cuts, Park stated, “The Olympic Stadium was designed from the outset as a temporary facility. After the games, the stadium will be dismantled bar a few facilities, which will be used as a memorial hall and sports ground. There was no roof cancellation due to budgetary reasons.”
On last Saturday’s event, Park added, “All people who showed signs of hypothermia returned home without any serious symptoms, after treatment.”
It’s fair to say that Korean winters can get a little nippy. The KMA has forecast that the average temperature in Pyeongchang during the Olympics will be -4.8 degrees Celsius. Let the games — heaven forbid — be cold.
Cover image: Aerial view of the new 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Stadium. (Source: Courtesy of Pyeongchang Olympic Committee)