Rogge: Weather is only question mark for Vancouver

Published January 28, 2010

| AP

With 15 days to go before the opening ceremony, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Thursday that the weather is the only unresolved issue hanging over the Winter Games in Vancouver.

"I'm very optimistic for the staging of these games," Rogge said. "We're ready. I think that Vancouver can say that everything is ready now."

Rogge said his remaining concern is the possibility of weather problems affecting the outdoor events during the Feb. 12-28 Olympics.

"That's the only question mark," he said in a teleconference. "The rest, I'm very optimistic."

Rogge said that, as with all Winter Games, contingency plans are in place to deal with too much or too little snow.

Unseasonably warm and wet weather in the Vancouver area has been a worry for Canadian organizers in recent weeks. Cypress Mountain, the venue for snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, was closed to the public 2½ weeks earlier than planned to protect the snow conditions.

No such problems have been reported in the Whistler resort area, where the Alpine and Nordic ski events will be held.

Rogge said he received encouraging weather news Thursday from VANOC, the local organizing committee.

"Whistler is absolutely fine," he said. "Cypress Mountain is absolutely fine on the playing field. On the track itself, there is no problem. There is a little bit of an adjustment of snow here and there but there is absolutely no problem. The competition will take place as scheduled."

Vancouver is hosting the first Olympics since the global recession, which has forced VANOC to make budget cuts. But Rogge said there would be no impact on the competitions or the athletes.

"Savings were chosen very carefully so as not to impact on the quality of the games and the quality of the experience of the athletes," he said. "The athletes won't feel anything about the financial crisis and they will have very good games."

Rogge also said he wasn't concerned that the Whistler resort could be auctioned off in the middle of the games after creditors moved to auction off the assets of Intrawest LLC.

"We've received comforting words from VANOC," he said. "VANOC is not preoccupied by that, and I trust that they have found good solutions. I don't think this will affect the games."

The IOC will conduct 2,000 doping tests during the Vancouver Games, a record number for a Winter Olympics. Asked how many positive cases he expected, Rogge noted there were seven in Salt Lake City in 2002 and seven in Turin in 2006.

"Something around that (number) would not be surprising," he said. "But hopefully we will have less than that."

Rogge said athletes could be caught without a positive test as happened to German speedskater Claudia Pechstein, a five-time Olympic champion who will miss the Vancouver Games after receiving a two-year ban for blood doping. She was sanctioned by the international skating federation based on irregularities in her blood samples.

"I cannot rule that out," Rogge said. "It is a possibility."

The IOC will carry out 450 blood tests in Vancouver. If any abnormalities are detected, the IOC will pass on the information to the relevant sports federations to compare with their own athlete blood profiles.

"If there is an indication of doping, a disciplinary hearing will be opened," Rogge said.

In Turin, Italian police raided the lodgings of the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team and seized blood doping equipment. Six Austrian athletes were later banned for life from the Olympics by the IOC.

Unlike Italy, Canada has no anti-doping laws. Rogge said it will be up to Canadian authorities to decide whether to conduct any raids during the games.

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