Winter Olympics: Great Britain athletes on what the Games will mean for them

Fans set to watch Sir Chris Hoy compete in the men’s keirin on 24 November are in for a treat, as the Scot goes into the final race of his last winter World Cup…

Winter Olympics: Great Britain athletes on what the Games will mean for them

Fans set to watch Sir Chris Hoy compete in the men’s keirin on 24 November are in for a treat, as the Scot goes into the final race of his last winter World Cup competition with a 100% record.

Yamaha’s French rider Romain Poillard upset the odds by winning the gold medal in both the sprint and keirin at the Mexico championships last month.

The bobsleigh remains the first discipline of the Winter Olympics programme, but interest in this relatively recent addition to the Winter Olympics’ programme has grown steadily over the years, with seven medals won by Britain so far.

The first two competitions have been held in Calgary in Canada, with the next two to be held in South Korea.

With so many competitors competing in six events in total, it will be a challenge for the competing countries to track their medal tally across the three disciplines, but other countries have taken significant steps to make sure they follow suit.

Canada increased the size of their team for the Pyeongchang Games this year, hoping to make a bigger impact than in Sochi. Having a smaller team is a possibility for some other nations, but it is in effect a smaller team.

For Pyeongchang, China decided to use the Seoul Games as the launch pad for a full-scale bobsleigh development centre, in which all levels of equipment is included.

Research by Roebuck Research Associates has shown that fewer than 10% of the overall bobsleigh facilities available to competitors will be tested on a significant enough scale to use in international competition.

The Chinese centre boasts a purpose-built synthetic hill that can be set up at night, allowing continuous training, and a series of training tracks on the slopes surrounding the centre.

Media-friendly conditions

The option of competing in the semi-final and final of an event has improved in the sport, as it had previously been the case that only the participants can decide if they take part in a race. The semi-final has since been decided for all participants.

Speed skating is a great example of how you can make an impact at a Winter Olympics without taking part in every event.

The challenge for Olympic sport hosts is different to other sports. There is no time limit on the number of events a country can have in competition at an Olympic Games.

In other Winter Olympic sports, Olympic committees do not expect any country to go beyond their allocated number of events – hence the focus on improving facilities and moving the capacity forward.

Speed skating suits very well to this reduced number of events, because there are no time limits on semi-finals or finals. Speed skating is the fastest sport in the Winter Olympics, so if there is a cut, there is usually a cut very early in the programme.

The point of Olympic winter sports is to attract as many people to the Olympic Games as possible, and speed skating is very popular in China. To see so many people so excited about speed skating is very positive.

These Games are being held in an atmosphere that has been highly anticipated for years, in an area that is new and interesting to many, as it is the first Olympics to be held in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang.

Hosting an Olympics is one of the biggest challenges a country has faced. There are very few countries that have been able to successfully host a Winter Olympics, and Korea is the only country to have done it twice – in 1998 and 2002. The IOC has so far awarded the Winter Olympics to eight different countries – the others being: Austria, Innsbruck, Moscow, Lake Placid, Salt Lake City, Nagano, Turin and Calgary.

The success of these Games will come down to the execution of the perfect operation, and the delivery of a high quality event.

It may be too early to see whether Korea can pull off the perfect Winter Olympics.

Additional reporting by Lucy Bortler.

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