South Korea announced it will "cover the costs" of North Korea's Winter Olympics delegation, according to David Brennan of the INT'L BUSINESS TIMES. The bill, which will come to approximately 2.86B won ($2.64M), will be paid by the South's Ministry of Unification. The fund, created in '91, has an '18 budget of 962.4B won ($8.95M). The "biggest chunk" of the budget -- 1.2B won ($1.1M) -- will go to accommodation and catering costs of the 424-strong North Korean delegation, which includes over 200 cheerleaders, a 137-piece orchestra, taekwondo performers, journalists and other supporting personnel. Another 1B won ($930,000) will be used to "pay for entrance fees to Olympic venues," while 100M won ($93,000) was "earmarked for travel expenses." The bill of the 22 North Korean athletes competing in this year's Games "will be covered" by the IOC. Ministry spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun said that the costs of the high-level diplomatic delegation, which included Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, "would be paid for separately from the South Korean government budget" (IB TIMES, 2/14).
Discovery Channel said that its coverage of the Winter Olympics resulted in 212 million users viewing "across all screens," according to Julian Clover of BROADBAND TV NEWS. Using its new Total Video measure that combines online viewing with traditional linear broadcasts, Discovery said that it is approaching 1 billion video views and "new record shares in Norway, Sweden and Germany." Coverage from Pyeongchang 2018 can be seen on Eurosport and Discovery-owned channels including TV Norge, where Sunday’s men’s biathlon final achieved a 90% share. Discovery’s Kanal 5 in Sweden "achieved its highest ever audience share" of 73% on Saturday with the first medal of Pyeongchang 2018 going to Charlotte Kalla in women’s skiathlon. Social media engagement, the number of likes, shares and comments on owned social media platforms, has reached a cumulative 1.1 million (BROADBAND TV NEWS, 2/14).
Skeleton's governing body was "forced to step in" on Wednesday after rival nations accused the British team of "cheating by using illegal suits to improve performance," according to Ben Bloom of the London TELEGRAPH. The Int'l Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation asked to inspect Team GB's new high-tech aerodynamic suits after a "number of countries had complained that they were illegally giving British sliders an unfair advantage." The suits, which feature drag-resistant ridges to aid aerodynamics, have been brought in just for the Pyeongchang Games and "produced a sudden improvement in the performance of British athletes this week during pre-competition training." However, the IBSF "attempted to defuse" the situation at a meeting of all skeleton team captains on Wednesday when they confirmed the suits had been "cleared for competition." The suits were developed by aerodynamic consultancy TotalSim. The company has been "heavily involved in developing state of the art equipment used by Team GB cyclists at the last three Olympics" (TELEGRAPH, 2/14). REUTERS' Ian Ransom reported British skeleton racer Jerry Rice, who will make his Olympic debut in the men's event starting on Thursday, said that the team's equipment was "checked and signed off" by tournament organizers. Rice said, "It doesn't bother me, people can speculate as much as they'd like. The fact of the matter is that the British guys are fast because we're good at sliding, no other reason. We're innovators, we do everything we can to be as fast as we can be" (REUTERS, 2/14). In London, Seward & Al-Samarrai reported four-time Olympic alpine ski racer Chemmy Alcott suggested that the complaints made by other teams is "just a tactical ploy to get in the heads of the Team GB athletes." She said, "I think competitors are getting a bit worried. This is controversial but I think they [British opponents] have started a ripple of chat to get into our athletes' heads" (DAILY MAIL, 2/14).
The Jamaican women's Winter Olympics bobsleigh debut is "under threat after their coach quit and threatened to take the team's sled," according to Anna Thompson of the BBC. German Sandra Kiriasis, an ex-Olympic champion, claims she was "forced out when her role was changed, and that she is legally responsible for the sled." Kiriasis wants payment for it but the Jamaica Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation declined and is "disputing she owns the sled." She said, "I've never known such disappointment in this sport, in my life." Kiriasis said that she had to quit after refusing to change roles from driving coach to track performance analyst, "which would have given her no access to the athletes." The sled "situation remains unresolved," with the JBSF denying its team will have to pull out of the event. Kiriasis: "The athletes have told me they don't understand why this has happened as they have no problem with me and we have a good relationship" (BBC, 2/14). REUTERS' Mitch Phillips reported JBSF President Christian Stokes said, "The lady was a hugely destructive force on the team. Now that she is off the team, synergy is much better, tension is down and athletes are now able to focus in a much healthier environment" (REUTERS, 2/14).
Six days into the Pyeongchang Olympics, "the biggest problem so far has been the harsh weather." The "bitter cold and strong winds affected the opening ceremony and impacted key events," keeping the Olympic Committee on its toes "in rescheduling events." It had to reschedule Wednesday's women's alpine slalom event, marking the third time it rescheduled an alpine skiing competition due to weather (KOREA TIMES, 2/14).
Organizers temporarily shut shops in Olympic Park in Gangneung and advised spectators to "seek shelter indoors due to strong winds" on Wednesday. Volunteers had to hold metal poles supporting a security check tent "to keep the structure from blowing away." The workers "were even forced to stop using a metal detector at one point, a very uncommon occurrence at the Olympic Games where security is always stringent" (KYODO, 2/14).
A group of North Korean cheerleaders were "briefly wowed by the apparent, sudden arrival of their leader," Kim Jong-un, at a Winter Olympics ice hockey game. Some cheerleaders "giggled then immediately averted their gaze" as the impersonator, who later only identified himself as Howard, smiled and waved to crowds who came to watch a unified Korean team play Japan at the Pyeongchang Games (AAP, 2/14).
Winners of the men's and women's singles tennis events at the upcoming Asian Games "will earn direct entry into" Tokyo 2020. The Int'l Tennis Federation on Wednesday announced the introduction of six continental qualification places, approved by the IOC exec board, as part of the Tokyo 2020 Qualification System for tennis (PTI, 2/14).
A snow volleyball exhibition on Wednesday "showcased a sport organizers hope will one day be included in the Winter Olympics." Brazilian beach volleyball player Emanuel Rego, who did not "mind the cold and windy conditions" in Pyeongchang, said, "We can show the world it's possible." Organizers of the exhibition match said that they hoped it would "follow the path of beach volleyball," which has been an Olympic sport since Atlanta 1996 (REUTERS, 2/14).
At the Pyeongchang 2018 Green Pavilion near the south gate of Gangneung Olympic Park, visitors can "check how much greenhouse gases they produced during their trip" to Gangneung for the Winter Olympics. Visitors input information such as the country from which they departed, method of transportation, days staying in the city and purpose of the trip, "and a computer inside a green container pavilion translates the data into total carbon emissions" (KOREA TIMES, 2/14).
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin promised a reward of 4M rubles ($70,500) to every Muscovite who brings back a Gold Medal from the Olympics. Almost 170 Russian athletes are competing in Pyeongchang "under a neutral flag" (MOSCOW TIMES, 2/14).