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Volume 7 No. 108


British IOC member Adam Pengilly competed in skeleton at Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010.

A British IOC member was "sent home from the Winter Olympics on Thursday after an altercation with a security guard," according to Ben Bloom of the London TELEGRAPH. Adam Pengilly, who is one of three British IOC members, was accused of "injuring a guard when leaving his hotel in Pyeongchang earlier in the day." An IOC spokesperson said, "The IOC wishes to apologize for the behavior of one of its members, and feels extremely sorry for the incident caused by Mr. Adam Pengilly. ... Following an interview with the IOC Ethics and Compliance officer, he will leave the Olympic Games and South Korea with immediate effect." Pengilly, who represented Britain in skeleton at the 2006 and 2010 Games, also apologized for his actions and admitted he "let myself and others down" (TELEGRAPH, 2/15).

Inside a five-story building at the Winter Olympics, TV production crews are "working with video in 21 languages, all part of a plan by their U.S. employer, Discovery Communications, to become the top sports media brand in Europe," according to Liana Baker of REUTERS. For the first time in Olympics history, a single broadcaster has the rights to air the Games in "almost 50 European countries." Discovery Head of Int'l J.B. Perrette said, "This may be bigger than anything that has been undertaken in many ways, just given the complexity of the markets and breadth of the markets. This is a big moment for the company." Discovery "must now negotiate the much more delicate task of broadcasting to dozens of markets, respecting the national sensibilities of each one -- starting at Pyeongchang." Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton said, "Editorially it's really difficult because what matters to each country is totally different. If you talk to the Dutch, it's all about the speed skating. If you talk to the Poles it's all about ski jumping." It is "also about subtle cultural differences." Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. U.S. TV consultant Adam Armbruster said, "A challenge for Eurosport could be that if some of the vernacular and sports terms are not accurate, they could risk a loss of viewers" (REUTERS, 2/15).

Russian fans have dressed in the country's colors to compensate for the athletes' neutral uniforms.

Ilya Kovalchuk has a "rule for any fans wanting an Olympic selfie -- put the Russian flag away," according to James Ellingworth of the AP. The forward for the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" hockey team is "worried" about breaking IOC sanctions. In the stands, though, Russian fans can be "as patriotic as they like." They have been a "loud and proud presence" at events like hockey, biathlon and figure skating, wrapped in flags and chanting in Russian. Many say that they want to "dress up to compensate for their athletes' drab neutral uniforms." The fans made the "half-full" Gangneung Hockey Center "ring with chants" during the Russian hockey team's opening game against Slovakia on Wednesday. A line of Russian women danced with pompoms, a Soviet flag flew and South Koreans lined up for selfies with a man dressed in a bear costume. The inscription on one flag read, "Russia is a big country and a great power." Many fans wore replicas of the Olympic uniform Russians were "due to wear before the IOC punishment came down in December" (AP, 2/15).

Organizers have tried to fill seats by giving tickets to volunteers, school groups.

POCOG spokesperson Sung Baik-yoo said that Games organizers were "within one percent of their target of 90 percent sold out," a figure that equals about 1 million tickets, according to Tariq Panja of the N.Y. TIMES. Yet the scene at venues in Pyeongchang from the ski slopes in the mountain cluster to the ice sports stadiums of Olympic Park "tells a story far different from Sung's pronouncements of success." Swaths of empty blue seats have been a "familiar backdrop despite organizers' efforts to fill in gaps by providing volunteers with so-called passion tickets" that allow them to attend events and by "bringing in school groups by the busload." So far, fans have been able to "show up right before the start of all but the most popular events and buy a ticket." It is "not just the spectators who have noticed." Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal described completing his Gold Medal run in the men’s downhill on Thursday in front of a "mostly empty" grandstand as "a little bit strange." The low attendance "may be partly attributed to the fact that South Korea does not have a culture of Alpine sports." Empty seats are "not a problem unique to the Pyeongchang Games." Organizers of the last two Olympics -- Rio 2016 and Sochi 2014 -- also "found themselves under scrutiny as images of half-empty venues were beamed worldwide" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15).

Kanoa Igarashi will represent Japan's at Tokyo 2020.
Photo: damian poullenot/wsl

Japan will have "one of the best young surfers in the world" representing the host nation in surfing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but "another is staying in Australian colours." While Kanoa Igarashi opted to represent Japan, not the U.S., '17 World Surf League rookie of the year Connor O’Leary said that "he has no plans to switch nationalities for an Olympic spot." O'Leary's mother is Japanese but the young surfer said that he will represent Australia (Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH, 2/14).

A total of 16 Pyeongchang Olympics staff and spectators were injured "when strong winds ripped through the Olympic venues on Wednesday, while also causing considerable damage to the installations," officials said on Thursday. Games spokesperson Sung Baik-yo0 said, "Sixteen people had slight injuries, 13 wee operational staff and three were spectators." The wind "ripped tents, signposts and steel fencing off their base and sent them flying through the Olympic park" (REUTERS, 2/14).

A row between the IOC and Richard Pound, its "most senior member," escalated after the Canadian repeated his criticisms of the potential plan to lift Russia's suspension in time for the closing ceremony of Pyeongchang. The ban will be lifted if the IOC judges Russia has acted within the "letter and spirit" of its participation requirements. Pound said that he "does not plan to attend" the closing ceremony on Feb. 25 in protest against the decision. He considers it a "gross error" which would send the "wrong signal" (INSIDE THE GAMES, 2/15).