Pyeong Chang, Korea, February 9. Even though the day is just beginning in central Europe, the sun is setting here in Pyeong Chang.
The “quick flight plan” according to the pilot of the Lufthansa Airbus 340 coming from Munich was “only” nine hours and forty minutes. Leaving Inchon airport at 7:15 for the drive to Pyeong Chang proved a challenge as the hotel van had to maneuver through morning rush hour traffic in Seoul. Nevertheless, by late morning, he had made it to one of the host hotels, the Dragon Valley Hotel in the Yong Pyong Resort.
All of the teams and officials are staying at one of the several hotels in this bustling resort. Yong Pyong calls itself a “four season resort” with activities year round, but now the focus is on the downhill ski slopes that end at the door of the hotel. Mid-week, it is not too crowded, but still busy mainly with youthful snowboarders, styling in all of the latest gear.
The Alpensia Biathlon Center is just seven minutes by shuttle bus. The biathlon stadium is a part of a new sprawling Nordic center. Much of the area is still under construction, but the biathlon stadium, service cabins, and large media center are getting ready for action.
Mid-afternoon, about 20 teams were training and adjusting to the time change (most arrived over the weekend). The local technical crews were busy laying some of the miles of cable necessary for the top-notch television productions on Eurosport starting on Saturday.
Many volunteers and staff were hard at work putting up fences, moving boxes, as the facility starts to look more like a World Championships venue each hour.
Unfortunately, one thing is lacking, the white stuff called snow. The tracks and stadium are covered, but the hillsides are virtually snow-free. Norbert Baier, Chairman of the IBU Technical Committee, commented on the situation. “It is a beautiful sunny day, but this is a problem. The sun and especially the wind are melting and evaporating the snow on the tracks. The organizers tried to make snow last night, but it was not cold enough. It is supposed to be colder tonight and they will try again. Regardless, we will be ready for the competitions on Saturday.”
The teams and organizers can do everything in their power to get ready for the 2009 Biathlon World Championships, but they need a little help from Mother Nature; first, some cold nights and then maybe even some fresh snow to make everything perfect here.