The 2018 winter olympics in PyeongChang is forecast to be the coldest on record with temperatures set to dip to an icy minus 14 celsius during the opening ceremony.
As organisers hand out blankets and heat packs to mitigate the risk of frostbite and hypothermia among spectators, we take a look at the athletes’ equipment – what they’ll be using and wearing. Here regulations are so strict, a stray piece of tape could cost you your medal.
For the ski jump
Possibly the maddest sport in the history of mankind, ski jumping or “flying” as it is also known, is also one of the most tightly regulated events in the winter olympics. As competitors launch themselves from the “normal” hill, or the death-defying “large” hill, their skis and ski suits offer air resistance, helping them to glide for longer before they make touchdown.
Controversy has surrounded the use of extra-baggy suits, and, in the past, some athletes have even fallen prey to eating disorders in their bid to remain slimmer and skim further. For this reason suits, which are cut from a spongy material, must follow the contours of the skier’s body, within 2cm of their skin.
By rights, anyone setting out to ski off a precipice ought to be rescued and treated in a private clinic. But it’s fine if you’re wearing skis. As long as they’re a particular length – no more than 145% of your height.
Take the plunge
Chilly though it must be out on the ice, it’s always tempting to give your chances of winning a medal for figure skating an extra boost by showing just a little more of your highly toned flesh than is strictly necessary.
Judges, however took a somewhat dim view of this practice in the 1988 winter olympics in Calgary. Katarina Witt donned a costume with a neckline that plunged so low she risked full exposure with every triple-salco.
Despite awarding Katerina back-to-back golds, those overseeing events felt her rather revealing outfits pushed the envelope of acceptability a little too far, insisting that in future, “clothing must not give the effect of excessive nudity”.
Long gone are the days when gentlemen risked their necks hurtling down the Cresta Run protected by nothing more than their tweeds and a nip of something warming.
What began as a test of nerve for British aristocrats who missed rugger, cold showers and the rigours of public school, has become a sport whose rules are so strict it would have any slightly twisted headmaster reaching for his cane.
Imagine former American skeleton world champ, Noelle Pikus-Pace’s horror when after having hurtled head first down a very steep hill to win a World Cup competition, she was disqualified for having a tiny piece of tape attached to her sled handle. The tape, judges said, might have been performance enhancing.
The only event, it seems, that’s not governed by strict dress rules is the noble sport of curling. This ice-bound equivalent of pub darts requires only that exponents wear matching clobber. And while if your team opts to wear kilts, any tights should be matching, organisers don’t appear to stipulate whether or not it’s necessary to be traditionally un-clad beneath your tartan.
Having said that, judges are, as ever, on the eagle-eyed lookout for cheats. Among the list of contraband, you’ll find heated brush pads, laser guns used to work out the speed of the stones, and battery operated brush heads.
To freeze as many bums to seats as possible, the organisers of this year’s winter olympics have been at pains to prevent spectators flying to the wrong city.
To this end, Pyeongchang has suddenly become PyeongChang – the new capitalisation of the ‘C’ an attempt to differentiate the Southern district where most of the events are to take place, from North Korea’s capital Pyongyang – a destination which offers an altogether more frosty welcome.
Travelling to the winter spectacle? Our advice: wrap up warm, see if you can acquire one of the VIP’s special blankets (which are apparently thicker than the one you’ll be given) and wear plenty of layers to keep out the cold.