Media banned from training at snow starved Games venue

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By Mary Milliken

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Olympic Games organizers, scrambling helicopters to pile snow on to the barren freestyle ski and snowboard venue, told the media on Sunday that they would not get access to the first official training session.

Officials say they "do not have anything to hide" at Cypress Mountain, the most weather-challenged venue of the 2010 Winter Games that open on Friday (February 12-28).

But the journalists will miss the first day of moguls training on Monday on the slopes visible from Vancouver, the host city hampered by the warmest January on record.

"Largely this is to ensure the safety of everything that is up there but more importantly it allows us to focus on getting the field of play as best we can for the athletes' first day of training," said Tim Gayda, vice president of sports for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC).

The media will be allowed in for men's and women's mogul training sessions on Tuesday, he said.

Reporters are likely to find a scene quite different from an idyllic Winter Games setting.

There will be no snow in the spectator areas, with the 5,000 cubic meters of snow coming from nearby mountains being used only to complete courses for events such as the mogul, half pipe and parallel giant slalom.

But the media might be kept at bay even longer. Executive vice president Cathy Priestner Allinger said VANOC is prepared to make decisions, like delaying the media coming on site, if it is in the "best interest of the venue and the athletes."

Organizers emphasized that the freestyle skiing and snowboard courses are nearly complete and the Games will not suffer on Cypress Mountain despite bad press about the lack of snow.

"There are eight other venues and hopefully you will ask me questions about those one day," Gayda told journalists.

(Reporting by Mary Milliken; editing by Jon Bramley)