Postcard from Pyeongchang: Half-empty stands a concern for organisers

Senior Editor Graham Bell reports from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang...

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With The Killers' iconic 'Mr. Brightside' blasting out over the sound system, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was a student union in full blast on a Saturday night.

Instead, perched half way up a mountain and with snow billowing down from above, it was the lure of the moguls that was taking the spotlight as the 2018 Pyeongchang Games were taken to the extreme.

Some 54 kilometres away from the almost balmy coast, where temperatures have been known to pop above freezing in what could become the coldest games of all time, Phoenix Park's temporary structures shake and rattle in the increasingly troublesome wind as fans desperately try to retain some sense of warmth.

High above though, the world's greatest prepared to descend in an event that can only be described as knee crushing. Each bump in the course seeing jarring motions forced through the skis and up the competitor's body.

When done to perfection it looks almost effortless, graceful. But when it goes wrong a jerky ride ensues, leaving most of those in attendance gasping and grimacing.

And that's all before the jumps. With riders buffeted by the wind and snow, the debate of whether to play it safe or go for glory comes into play. It is a decision that can leave four years of expectation crushed - Canada's Andi Naude melted into tears before her team-mates and family after crashing out in the final.

In the end, 19-year-old Perrine Laffont stole the show for France, edging out 2014 champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe. But that was not the biggest feature of the night. Sadly, that fell to the crowd itself.

Despite the best daily efforts of the Organising Committee to state otherwise, it's fair to say the athletes were greeted by half-empty stands at the outset, which only dwindled as the night wore on. Whilst the biting temperatures can be partly to blame, it was a sorry sight to see - one that this event and showpiece did not deserve.

It is an issue that Sung Baik-you, spokesperson for the Pyeongchang Organising Committee, on Monday confirmed is being addressed.

"It's not good to have empty seats when seen on TV. We are trying to find a resolution and when seats are empty we will have volunteers sit in that seat," said Sung, adding that warmer weather is being forecast.

It will be hoped that can help boost spectator numbers to a level worthy of the competition over the coming two weeks.

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