I'm writing this in the main press centre, killing time between a morning at alpine skiing and an evening at luge. I was aiming to get back to the apartment but the bus hadn't turned up and I was craving a bibimbap (bowl of rice with vegetables and an egg) from one of the restaurants near the MPC, so I gave up waiting in the cold and went for food instead.
Despite writing in the last blog that the winter Olympics were quite like the summer Olympics, I'm slightly revising that belief. Yes, the Olympic bubble is identical and it's great to see and work with old friends and colleagues again - I rocked up at the men's Alpine combined event earlier in the week to discover the Olympic Broadcasting Service team covering it were the same reporter-cameraman duo as covered rowing and canoe sprints in Rio. "Oh, it's you!" exclaimed Graham, once I'd taken my sunglasses off.
|With colleagues on men's slopestyle finals day|
Winter sports are a whole different thing. My first day of competition was the day before the opening ceremony, at the qualification for the men's 'normal hill' ski jumping. A 'normal' ski jumping hill is terrifying (the big hill next to it is even worse!) I have no idea how anyone can edge out on to the starting gate, which is basically just a plank laid across the track, sit on it and then let go to whizz down the hill at 80+kph.
And then there's the stuff like snowboard and freestyle skiing, where they're not only zooming down a steep slope (and really, the slopestyle and moguls slopes were steep) but have to launch themselves off a hill and turn four times in the air. Alpine skiing slopes are also much steeper in reality than they seem on TV.
|Yongpyong Alpine centre - giant slalom venue|
I could, potentially, see myself having a bash at cross-country skiing, but the sheer effort the Olympic athletes put in is astounding. The biathletes finish close to the mixed zone and many of them fell on to the snow in exhaustion; the cross-country athletes, finishing further away, appeared to be the same.
The secret to many winter Olympians' success is starting early. Huge numbers of them began skiing as tiny children. The exceptions are often from countries without a winter Olympic legacy, such as the Tongan cross-country athlete Pita Taufatofua, who took up the sport after competing (admittedly not very successfully) at Rio in taekwondo. Still, he's here, and he's dedicated and wants to do his best, and that is an element of the Olympic Games which is common to both the summer and winter editions.
But the main difference between summer and winter is the cold, at least here in PyeongChang. We're acclimatised enough now that freezing or just below seems almost warm (although gloves are still necessary). My feet have been numb with cold several evenings, especially at ski jump, despite experimentation with two different pairs of boots, varying combinations of socks and a couple of attempts at sticking heat packs inside my shoes. I have vowed never to complain about the heat in the summer again.