The Green Olympics: Sochi to have recycled snow on hand

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Good news out of Sochi: If there’s a shortage of snow next winter, Olympic organizers have a battle-tested method that will ensure the Games will go on.

Much has been reported about the Sochi area’s climate, which is warm at the Black Sea coast (49 degrees is the average high in February). Although it’s cooler in the mountains, about 30 miles away, where the skiing and sliding events will take place, the threat of not having enough snow for the competitions is real.

But there appears to be a solution: Underground storage facilities that can house 250,000 cubic meters of snow.

On Dec. 8-9, this backup plan was implemented at a women’s ski jumping event at the Olympic venue.

It seems to have worked.

Organizers removed 4,600 cubic meters of last winter’s snow from the subterranean chamber and dropped it at the ski jumping venue. Then the snow was smoothed over the under-padding at the hill and the result was a perfect surface that was fit for competition. In other words, it was a success.

“Snow in February is guaranteed, but in case of warm weather, we have prepared a backup plan,’’ head of the Olympic Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko told the Toronto Star. “We are storing snow from the previous season to use at all the venues. During the World Cup in ski jumping, we successfully tested the system.’’

In addition to keeping the year-old snow (does it have an expiration date?), there will be more than 400 pieces of snowmaking equipment on hand.

Will Sochi defy the naysayers and actually become one of the snowiest winter Olympics in history? That might be taking it too far, but it seems that any weather worries may be unnecessary.

WADA investigates report that 10,000 Chinese athletes doped

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BERLIN (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency is looking into allegations made by a German broadcaster that Chinese athletes benefited from systematic doping in the 1980s and 90s.

“The allegations were brought forward by former Chinese physician, Xue Yinxian, who is said to have looked after several national teams in China during the decades in question,” WADA said Monday.

Xue, who recently arrived in Germany and is seeking political asylum with her son, told broadcaster ARD that more than 10,000 athletes were affected, some as young as 11, and that anyone who was against doping was considered “a danger to the country. And anyone who endangered the country is now in prison.”

The 79-year-old Xue said she lost her job with the national gymnastics team after refusing to treat an athlete with doping substances before the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

She said she had not felt safe in her home city of Beijing since 2012, when she first made her allegations of doping. She first started working with China’s national teams in the 1970s.

“In the 1980s and ’90s, Chinese athletes on the national teams made extensive use of doping substances,” she told ARD. “Medals were showered in doping. Gold, silver and bronze. All international medals should be withdrawn.”

WADA said it will examine “whether such a system may have prevailed beyond these decades.”

The first step, WADA said, was for its “independent intelligence and investigations team to initiate an investigative process in order to collect and analyze available information in coordination with external partners.”

Xue, who continued to work at lower levels after being dismissed from the national team in 1988, said she was only approached afterward when athletes developed problems because of the substances they were given.

“One trainer came to me and said, ‘Doctor Xue, the boys’ breasts keep getting bigger,’” Xue said. “These boys were about 13 to 14 years old.”

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PyeongChang Olympic organizers downplay North Korea concern

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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) — PyeongChang Olympic organizers played down concern over ongoing tensions with North Korea and also say work has been completed on all venues for the Winter Games.

Lee Hee-beom, president of the PyeongChang organizing committee, said the International Olympic Committee has made it very clear that the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games will go ahead as scheduled.

Speaking at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics shortly after the last rehearsal for Tuesday’s official flame-lighting ceremony, Lee said “there is no Plan B.”

Lee said South Korean officials are working closely with all relevant parties to ensure the Winter Games are safe and secure.

He said his main concern for the Olympics is the weather.

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